E3 2019 didn’t officially start until this morning, but the internet has already granted every possible award to Tango Gameworks’ Creative Director, Ikumi Nakamura. Nakamura won the heart/mind of anyone with a pulse during Sunday’s Bethesda press conference, where she unveiled Ghostwire: Tokyo. In case you missed it, I sincerely recommend taking five minutes to watch the reveal and its accompanying trailer:
Alright, so, you get it right? In an industry where every sentence spoken is so tightly workshopped, so deliberately prepared by a PR department, so carefully metered to allow for maximum applause opportunity, Nakamura’s friendly and energetic presentation was a breath of fresh air for a crowded Los Angeles theater. Which isn’t to say that her comments weren’t prepared ahead of time, of course, but to equate her presentation with, say, any three-minute chunk of Sunday’s Xbox showcase would be ridiculous. Nakamura came across as a real person, rather than a company appendage reading from a teleprompter.
Desperate for any semblance of human connection in our stale and calculated industry, most of the internet — myself included, full disclosure — quickly embraced Nakamura as the last good thing left in video games. Fan art began to appear mere moments after her talk concluded, which Nakamura gladly retweeted:
— Erica (@aurahack) June 10, 2019
— 失眠???? (@peachylait) June 10, 2019
This is my contribution to this year's E3. Let's make Ikumi Nakamura proud pic.twitter.com/6C3xw6rR1l
— Eamonn (@eamonn_casey_) June 10, 2019
— F o x x (@FoXxarius) June 10, 2019
So who is Ikumi Nakamura? Let’s find out together, in the format historians agree is most conducive to the art of the biography: a listicle!
Nakamura Fact #1: She’s Made Games You Love
If this is the first you’ve heard of Nakamura, know that she has been involved in some of the most beloved games of the last decade and counting. Her artistic resume stretches back as far as 2006’s beloved mythical wolf god simulator Okami, and after working on several more Capcom titles like Super Street Fighter IV and Marvel vs. Capcom 3, she joined Platinum Games as a Conceptual Designer on Bayonetta. Her talent did not receive much media attention until she later joined Tango Gameworks, where she has served under the tutelage of legendary game designer Shinji Mikami (Resident Evil, Dino Crisis, et al). As Lead Artist on The Evil Within and its sequel, she’s the person responsible for this horrible thing and this absolute nightmare. Mikami, recognizing her skill and further potential, has been shepherding her in the ways of product management, with Ghostline: Tokyo as her debut title in a directorial position.
Nakamura Fact #2: She Watched Hellraiser ‘Practically Every Day’ In Her Youth
A young Nakamura would watch Clive Barker’s Hellraiser “practically every day,” the artist told Adam Sessler in an in-house 2014 interview. For those who haven’t seen it, Hellraiser is the one where interdimensional torture demons turn a guy into a blood zombie so he can experience the absolute extremes of pleasure and pain. A lot of really messed up stuff happens in that movie!
“I watched Hellraiser when I was young, and I really loved it. I would watch it practically every day,” Nakamura said. “Of course I loved zombie movies, too, but zombies are humans. They have a certain level of horror to them, but Hellraiser is a lot more bizarre — more like a nightmare. It really left an impression on me.”
Kids will be kids, right? I watched Spaceballs twice a day for years of my youth and that’s definitely an equivalent experience.
Nakamura Fact #3: She’s Very Honest in Interviews
Speaking of Hellraiser, that character heavily influenced her design of The Keeper, one of The Evil Within‘s most unique enemies. Nakamura knocked the design for The Keeper out of the park on her first try, according to that same interview, though she had no qualms in telling Sessler that she was “very disappointed” with how it was eventually implemented.
“I actually really hate that,” Nakamura said to a nearby Mikami’s stifled laughter, in response to a prompt from Sessler about The Keeper’s ethereal ability to rise from the floor. “In my mind, the character is a very real presence. He’s actually there. So I didn’t want him to have any illusory or fantasy-like elements. But one of the designers went with that approach, and that was that.
“But I was disappointed,” she added with a big smile. “Very disappointed.”
“I definitely understand how she feels,” Mikami said. “But when the designer was integrating the character into the level, the idea was to have this enemy somewhere he couldn’t reach you, and suddenly remove his own head. Then he possesses another safe over near the player, and attacks them. I thought it was a really fun and unique addition to the gameplay.”
Now that Nakamura is Creative Director, she’ll be the one settling disputes between artists and designers on Ghostwire: Tokyo. Hopefully Sunday’s Bethesda show won’t be the last we see of Nakamura on the press circuit, as Ghostwire slinks towards an unknown future release date.