Die-hard gamers are probably the most creatively inventive kinds of fans an artist can hope for. Everyone from talented modders and cosplayers to impassioned fan-fiction writers and actors have found ways to turn their enthusiasm into original work for many developers' games. So when ZeniMax Online Studios and Bethesda Softworks noticed singer-songwriter Malukah's covers of songs from their hit game Skyrim had gone viral on YouTube, the companies approached her to create an original song about the upcoming massive multiplayer game "The Elder Scrolls Online" (ESO).
The result of the collaboration, a haunting three-and-a-half minute song titled "Beauty of Dawn" was released this week on YouTube and Bethesda's ESO blog.
"I've written songs and music for mobile games and other projects before, but this is the first time I've ever had a chance to create a song alongside a dev team," Malukah told NBC News. "ZeniMax Online Studios invited me to collaborate on this song because they had seen some of the Skyrim covers I'd done in the past, and they knew I was a big fan of the Elder Scrolls franchise. It was an amazing experience to work on this song, and I'll continue looking for opportunities to write original music and/or sing on games and other projects."
"Beauty of Dawn" is a translation of the "Elder Scrolls"-speak word "Tamriel," which Malukah said served as the inspiration for the song.
This is hardly the first time that developers have teamed up with their talented fans to create original content for a game. BioWare famously teamed up with rockstar cosplayer and actress Felicia Day to create a web-series for its "Dragon Age" series — an idea Irrational Games later borrowed when it hired a particularly talented cosplayer to portray a real-life version of the "BioShock Infinite" character Elizabeth. ZeniMax itself previously hired the self-proclaimed "videogame pornographer" Duncan Harris to capture images of "Dishonored" for his website Dead End Thrills. And who could forget the kerfuffle over "Mass Effect 3's" ending?
Video games, by their very nature games, invite this kind of artistic collaboration between developers and players. We can probably expect more blurring of the lines between fans and creators in the next-generation as the technology behind game development becomes ever more accessible and democratized.
But for her part, Malukah is happy to continue playing on both both sides of the field.
"I love making fan covers," Malukah said. "You can learn so much from a composer by deconstructing their work and arranging it in different ways. It can sometimes show you why they made certain musical choices, and this knowledge can help you later when you need to make decisions in your own work. I love writing music, and it's definitely something I wish to keep learning about and improving."