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The land called Morrowind is a hostile place. A volcano reigns over its center, covering large swaths of the land in ash. Mushrooms grow taller than trees, and the ruins of an ancient civilization lie among the mountains. The people are hardy and set in their ways; you will be deemed an outlander. It's a cheap trip, though; you can go there for as low as $10. Darya Makarava went there for free, and never wanted to leave.

Darya first played The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind in 2003, a year after the game was released. Now 23 years old and a full-time Concept Artist for a game company, she is not shy about admitting the impact that the game had on her. It helped her get through a hard time in her life, and led her to a community of wildly creative people where she would make dear friends and decide the course of her future.

Originally from Belarus, her family moved to Germany when she was young, where she lived for most of her childhood. Like any artistic person, Darya was always interested in art-- she drew and made up stories since little, and she describes herself as a very social child at that time, even popular. She grew up used tothe local culture, and steeped in the quiet history of the old streets and nearby forests. But her family had to move across the ocean, to Lubbock, Texas, and she had to leave everything she had known behind.

The change was hard. She doesn't point to one single thing as the reason for her drastic change in personality and the hard emotional times this led to. The landscape of Texas was alien-- it contrasted heavily with that of Europe's; when there had been green hills and mild summers, there was now flat, red earth and oppressive heat. She was getting dangerously close to her teen years-- a hard thing to go through on its own, without moving to a new place and having to fit in with children who were used to a whole different culture. She withdrew into herself, becoming quieter, literally and figuratively-- she would not speak, even though she learned English quickly. Unlike the last time she moved, the culture shock was greater, and this time she was old enough to "realize what it meant to have my life packed up in carry-on".

Morrowind came for free with her computer's video card. Her father and brother played it first and enjoyed it, so she decided to try it out. It became a much-needed reprieve from her loneliness, and gave her a creative outlet. She read about it, drew its characters, and designed new areas for the strange and complex world.

Morrowind is the third game in the Elder Scrolls series-- a series that has been building its history and lore since the first game was released in 1994. Although it is basically a medieval fantasy role-playing game, the series sets itself apart by reworking the typical fantasy tropes into something unique-- the elves are racists and widely imperfect, the beast races are not barbarians, and the lines between good and evil are blurred. More importantly, the games let players create their own character and decide what path to take in their adventure..

The story of Morrowind revolves around a person thrown into an alien landscape and cutthroat culture with little information, skills, and allies, to succeed in their quest to fulfill a prophecy stemming from an old war and its gods.

A large fan community grew around the series for its technical and narrative aspects. Darya began delving into the community soon after she started playing, although she didn't fully join it.

Tamriel Rebuilt is one of the largest Elder Scrolls fan-projects. It aims to create new content for the game world that the game producers themselves couldn't include in the full game due to time and technical limitations. It is not only a project, it is a community. There is a common goal, but beyond that there are people who share an deep enthusiasm for one subject and want to share their ideas. Sharing creative ideas and work involves a kind of self-development; it can be a rocky journey, but ultimately the skills your started with will have grown bigger, and led to new directions.

Around the time Darya entered Junior High, things started to improve-- she found a group of people whom she could hang out with, joined the swimming club, and found people with similar interests. At the end of that year, however, she had to move to Maryland and start anew.

Tamriel Rebuilt's community and its goal called to Darya still-- those people who enjoyed the series as much as she did were a constant regardless of where she went, and she wanted to help create something for her favorite game. She felt she "wanted to be part of something bigger", so she made the decision to join the team as she traveled to her new home.

She started out as a lead reviewer and later became the administrator of a large part of the project. She learned to mod (coding and rendering to modify a game's existing content) and improved her artistic skills. As the years went on and she didn't have enough time to fully participate in the project, she began writing about and creating new fan-content for the game's lore. All this practice came in handy when she entered College to study Illustration, later becoming a Concept Designer.

Throughout this time she overcame her social anxiety, made lifelong friends, and met one of the game's writers, with whom she struck a friendship and later a relationship. They are currently engaged.

Today she is still involved in the fan community, moderating an archive and producing writing and art, while at the same time being a full-time Concept Artist for a mobile video game company. She's a kind, patient persona in the community who welcomes old and new fans alike. On occasion she shares her past struggle; they are as big a part of her life experience as the game itself.

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I love how you were able to seamlessly intertwine aspects of both the video game and Darya's life. Well done!

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