Narrative Designer

Tori Dougherty

My goal is to make sure that everyone who plays our game feels that they are, in some way, respectfully represented. I’m more interested in playing games where I’m represented, so why wouldn’t I want that experience for our players?

What is your role at ZOS and what do you do?

I am a writer/narrative designer for The Elder Scrolls Online. This means that I have to review and often rewrite any player facing text that shows up within the game. This can range anywhere from quest dialogue, lore books, weapon sets, ability names, etc. Not only do I make sure the writing is polished, professional, and grammatically correct, I also make sure everything follows the ever-growing lore of the Elder Scrolls universe.

How did you come to be a writer-designer for ZOS?

I was recommended by a friend to apply for a QA tester position. Within a few months of being hired, a writing position became available. I applied, was accepted, and have been part of the studio’s writing team ever since.

Have you always wanted to be a writer for video games?

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was in middle school! It’s so much fun to be able to create stories, characters, and player experiences, and it’s an absolute joy to see how players respond to the content. I’m extremely thankful for the opportunity to make a living doing something I love.

What does your day-to-day workload look like?

My tasks vary depending on our release cycle. In the beginning, I review quest documentation, giving feedback on narrative aspects and characterization. Once a content designer implements a quest, I’ll once again review the narrative flow and suggest edits and feedback. This also involves rewriting a lot of text! From there it’s weeks of polish and feedback changes. Of course there’s many other tasks the writers are also expected to handle, such as writing lore books, hireling emails, etc.

What is it like working for ZOS?

I’m very happy working at ZOS! My coworkers are all a blast to work with, and all collaboration is filled with respect and mutual understanding. All of my supervisors and leads have been extremely positive about my work, and I always feel appreciated by my team. Of course, as in any game studio, the schedule can be hectic, but I’m extremely proud of the content our company releases, and excited to come into work and tackle new projects.

What is your proudest accomplishment while working on The Elder Scrolls Online?

Though I’m of course proud of all the content I’ve worked on for ESO, my proudest accomplishment has to be the quest “Manor of Masques.” It was an extremely fun quest to write as there’s a lot of witty dialogue and quirky characters. I also was able to help create the Elder Scrolls’ very first openly transgender character in the quest, which was a huge honor for me as someone who strives to create diverse representation within my content.

Why is it so important to you to write stories that feature a diverse cast of characters?

My goal is to make sure that everyone who plays our game feels that they are, in some way, respectfully represented. I feel like this stems from the fact that I’m simply more interested in playing games where I’m represented, so why wouldn’t I want that experience for our players? And I’ve found that once I make sure those voices are heard, the communities have had a very positive reception. To some players, I may just be writing a random side character who happens to be in a same-sex relationship. To others, I’m making sure their identity is being represented, and that’s important to me!

How much freedom do you have to tell the kind of story you want to tell in ESO?

I feel like the values of ZOS are already aligned with mine, so creating diverse stories have never been an issue. Working on a game that already had characters of different races and sexual orientation made it a lot easier to speak out about continuing that diversity. Most of the feedback I’ve gotten from leadership is to just make sure that the stories are respectful to those they represent, which is only a plus in my book.

What games do you most enjoy and are currently playing?

I love to play role-playing games of all types, from video games to table top. Any game with a heavy focus in narrative is always enjoyable for me. Some examples include Dragon Age, Legend of Zelda, and Persona. I’m currently playing Witcher 3 for the first time and am very much enjoying the experience.

What additional hobbies do you enjoy outside of work?

I enjoy reading books and graphic novels, my favorite currently being Saga, Fables, and The Ancient Magus’ Bride. I also watch tons of television series, such as Fullmetal Alchemist and The Good Place. I’ve also just recently started running a Monster of the Week campaign, inspired by my favorite podcast The Adventure Zone! And every year I attend at least one anime convention. I’m basically just your typical mega geek.

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