Ikumi Nakamura Deserved Her E3 Moment

Ikumi Nakamura Deserved Her E3 Moment

For the most part, yesterday’s Bethesda E3 press conference was about as standard as they come, albeit with a dash of pretending Fallout 76‘s sudden shift in a more traditional direction was Definitely The Plan All Along. However, one moment stood out: Tango Gameworks creative director Ikumi Nakamura took the stage and animatedly introduced her team’s new game, spooky action-adventure GhostWire: Tokyo. Just like that, the internet was aflood with gifs and memes.

Nakamura broke the larger script of E3, which gains another milquetoast page every time a man in a blazer shuffles onto the stage to deliver a flowery ode to ray-tracing with all the expressiveness of someone who regularly gets mistaken for a mannequin when they shop at malls. She cracked funny jokes in English despite admitting she was “nervous” and that she was going to have to “do her best” to speak the language. She struck poses. She wore a cool, all-black outfit. She seemed to be having a genuinely good time on stage, expressing awe at the size of the crowd before her.

Even though it was just a brief introduction to Ghostwire: Tokyo, her segment came across as authentic, spontaneous, and heartfelt—a welcome reprieve from rehearsed marketing speeches and sleepily-recited teleprompter babble.

The trailer for the game, meanwhile, was rife with eerie supernatural imagery and stylish design (also, the most realistic bowl of ramen I’ve ever seen in a game). It was utterly inscrutable, but striking.

It makes sense that Nakamura was so well-prepared for the spotlight. She’s been working on major games since 2004, beginning with Capcom cult hit Okami, for which she designed backgrounds. Since then, she’s taken on increasingly central artistic and creative roles on the likes of Marvel vs Capcom 3, Street Fighter X Tekken, Street Fighter V, Bayonetta, The Evil Within, and The Evil Within 2.

Basically, if you’re a fan of action-oriented Japanese games, there’s a solid chance you’ve played something she had a hand in shaping. Now she’s creative director on GhostWire, having been introduced on stage yesterday by legendary Resident Evil (among many, many others games) designer Shinji Mikami.

A passage she contributed to the Evil Within art book gives some interesting insight into her design philosophy:

“Reality and horror are inseparable,” she wrote. “If you overdesign, you force the player, and without any design the experience becomes less memorable. Just having blood splatters and heads chopped off is not enough. This is only scary for its grotesqueness and is not what we were looking for with Evil Within. Realising this idea in the visuals of a video game is incredibly difficult, one of the more difficult challenges game designers face.”

Yesterday evening, fans enjoyed seeing her in the spotlight. Some are now drawing art of Nakamura and meme-ing about how “adorable” she is and how she should be “protected at all costs.” While much of the praise she’s received seems rooted in genuine admiration, some have argued that more extreme variations on these reactions are not appropriate, given the way Western society tends to infantilize Asian women. Despite that valid criticism, Nakamura herself has been enjoying the fan art, calling people’s drawings of her “treasures:”

As of today, Nakamura has more Twitter followers than her boss and mentor does. I’d say she’s off to a solid start, but like many other people who don’t fit the typical mould of E3-presentation-ready video game designer, she’s been at this forever. This sort of recognition on a major stage is, if anything, overdue.


  • For those not wanting to sit through a 3 hour video, they start discussing the game in question at the 2:04:00 mark in the video. Nakamura shows up at 2:05:40.

  • See, more diverse creators is undoubtedly a good thing. But these kinds of articles always come across as patronising in the way that calling a woman who’s good at what she does a “badass” does. I get that people want to support games creator minorities, but you’re acting the way a parent does when their infant walks for the first time.

    Stop acting like women being professionals is something amazing and special. It’s worse than acting like they can’t do it at all.

      • In a lot of ways this sort of thing genuinely reminds of ‘nice guy’ shtick, complete with fedora and all.

        • Really the only off-putting thing for me is the headline, but still I would be being picky.

          Her raw performance stands out among the suits, and that is worth all the praise.

  • her segment came across as authentic, spontaneous, and heartfelt

    Everyone who presented looked like they either wanted to be anywhere but on stage, or were clearly just reading a script and couldn’t give a rats ass. She genuinely came off as excited to show everyone what Ghostwire was about.

  • Her English is genuinely really great, but she wasn’t lying about being nervous.
    I guarantee that she practiced that speech forever. She did a whole bunch of mannerisms and changes to cadence that get taught to school kids when they do English speech contests during high school. I’d put money on it that she went to those contests in school and probably did really well.

    She looked like that was the highlight of her career.

  • Just don’t read the ResetEra forums, They managed to twist everyone praising her as being sexist and racially insensitive. no joke.

  • Saw this when it was playing live. Chat went crazy for her. She was such a breath of fresh air seeing her casual-ness and jokey self, compared to the standard professionalism. Whilst the latter was occasionally funny, it always had that stilted aspect to it. In comparison, her almost-childish nature was an interesting juxtaposition to the game she was describing and then revealed.
    Hope we see more of her.

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!