I’ve never really been one for pre-packaged emotes in games. There’s just some deep-seated arrogance in me, which always sneered at the idea of a piece of software boiling down all the vastly different ways I might react to a situation into five or six cutesy, pre-packaged sentiments, and letting me have no further say in the matter.
But then I met Hearthstone’s ‘Sweating Panda’ emote, and now everything has changed. Blizzard, it turns out, knew me better than I knew myself all along.
Sweaty P, as I shall now call him, is one of the six emotes in Hearthstone’s autochessy Battlegrounds mode, now so popular there’s a case for calling it the electric card game’s main format. For the uninitiated: a game of Battlegrounds has eight players, who clash with each other using gradually upgraded sets of cards chosen from a central pool. I wrote about it here.
An emote can be deployed at any point, either during fights or in the tense bouts of admin between them, and every other player can see it pop up beside your icon on the left of the UI. There are six emotes, and besides The Sweatmaster General, they comprise:
- A cow which I would look in the eye as I drowned it with my bare hands
- Some sort of wacky wretch giving a thumbs up
- A gormless, gesticulating lizard
- An orc having a hemorrhage
- A dwarf who’s just shat himself
But if these emotes were wines, they would be cornershop headache juice. Blundering, one-note affairs with no greater depth than a hint of sulphate preservative beneath all the sugar. Sweaty P, by contrast, is the equivalent of some dauntingly French ultraplonk, made from grapes with more coveted genetics than racehorses. He is, it is fair to say, an emote of breathtaking complexity.
Look at that face. He’s harrowed by what he’s going through, and yet he’s utterly hooked by it. He’s dreading a battering, but at the same time, part of him is looking past the fists, to the victory he dares to hope he might yet steal. Sweaty P hates what he’s doing, but he knows no pleasure quite like it.
The Sweating Panda emote, in other words, is playing Hearthstone. And honestly, in the time since I’ve gotten really into Battlegrounds, I’m yet to find a situation in which he is not an intensely articulate expression of how I feel.
Desperately buying and selling frogs in between rounds, like a man engaged in a collapsing ponzi scheme against himself, in an attempt to get a statline that will survive one more fight? Sweating Panda.
Beasted into the ground by a snowballing man-train of pirates, and staggering away on one point of health, with no hope in hell of a comeback? The Sweatster’s right there.
Clawing your way back to the top of the ranking as the weaker players start getting knocked out, only to find you’re bracketed against that heartless ape who bullied the life out of you with lava boys three rounds back? Sweateroonies.
Generally, in the bitter, hyper-jaded world of competitive card games on the computer, you get used to using emotes sarcastically, or even sadistically. The classic “well played”, as an opponent runs face-first into a horrible bit of RNG, is something we’ve all been guilty of. But Sweating Panda never lies. His is a face that tells a thousand eerily similar stories, and there’s never a moment in battlegrounds when I’m not living out one of them.