Interview: Ladies' Man Ragnar Tornquist

Ragnar Tornquist is one of gaming's few true storytellers. Since developing The Longest Journey in 1999, then going on to create its sequel Dreamfall as well as the MMO Anarchy Online, his work has always made story its focus. With the super-hush-hush MMO, The Secret World, now in development, while Dreamfall Chapters looks certain, storytelling is still at the center of his game philosophy.

Why do you write so many female characters?

Ragnar: I'm extremely fascinated by women! I'm surrounded by them. My wife, my baby girl. My cat is female. I find women fascinating - I love women! On every level. I dunno - there are just more options when it comes to female characters. On an emotional, spiritual level. Which is very unfair to men.

This is embarrassing, but the closest we can get to ourselves in a game is to be a girl.

Ragnar: You're absolutely right - nobody's done a layered, interesting male character that reflects the people playing the games. Because the people playing aren't these macho, gun-wielding guys. They're guys with... female aspects to them! Like us!

What are the advantages to writing female characters?

Ragnar: I find you can get away from the cliches. That down-to-earth, not macho male - I think that's more difficult to get into. I think people would have a harder time accepting that than playing a girl. And there's also something to be said for the fact that it's role-playing - it's being somebody you're not. Even though there's a lot of me in April [Ryan, star of The Longest Journey], she's also somebody I'm not. She has different concerns in her life, and I enjoy the exercise of writing somebody I'm not.

You could argue that there's an idealization of women in the Longest Journey games.

Ragnar: Yeah, there definitely is. But that probably reflects me as well. I think in TLJ and Dreamfall there was a concerted effort to say, OK, let's make the really strong and cool characters be women.