Ikumi Nakamura, the former GhostWire: Tokyo creative director who made a huge splash with her brief appearance at E3 2019, is finally ready to talk about opening her own game development studio after leaving Tango Gameworks in 2019. Fittingly, she did so while exploring some creepy, abandoned buildings.
During her interview with Cutscenes, a new YouTube channel created by independent documentarian Archipel and Japanese gaming site GameSpark, Nakamura explains that the decision to step down from her position at Tango Gameworks came out of concern for her health. While it was hard to walk away from finishing GhostWire: Tokyo, a game she considers her child in a way, Nakamura felt she had to get out of the situation before it was too late.
“You can’t make games if you’re not healthy,” Nakamura says. “I started wondering whether there wasn’t a way for me to make games while feeling better. I was running away in a way. However, I believe that running away can be very positive. Rather than just stacking things upon oneself, I think that running away for something better is the healthier choice.”
Nakamura mentions that, after leaving Tango Gameworks, she was inundated with messages, from notes of encouragement to job offers. She eventually accepted several invites from studios across the world to simply visit their office and see how they were organised. Nakamura says this helped her form an idea of how she might want to run her own studio one day, knowledge that she plans to carry over into this new venture.
“It was the chance for me to travel and learn what made a good working environment,” Nakamura explains. “I decided to use that experience to open my own small studio and build my IP. I want to try my hand at an IP again in that studio; this is what I’m working on right now. It’s stimulating to learn about new cultures. Of course, there’s a language barrier, but even for someone like me who can’t speak English, I want to speak with people who have the curiosity to learn and understand each other. If I can form this type of team to work on a new game, I feel that we’ll be able to bring something new to the players.”
While she wasn’t able to share much about what kind of game her studio is making, Nakamura was open about her experiences as a woman in the gaming industry. After seeing how poorly women are often treated in the male-dominated world of game development, she intends to achieve “full gender equality” in her new company and hopes to see more Japanese studios follow suit.
“In my personal opinion, I feel that stories written by women are more considerate and easier to get into,” Nakamura adds. “I also feel there’s more diversity in their characters. For men, they are more straightforward and easy to understand in that sense. I tend to feel that stories written by women are more in sync with their time. In the end, nobody can do everything. It’s about finding each person’s talents and leveraging them accordingly to make a great game.”
With a resumé that includes contributions to Okami, Bayonetta, and The Evil Within, Nakamura is one of the gaming industry’s unsung creators, and it’s wonderful to hear that she intends her new studio to be organised with its workers’ health in mind. Be sure to check out the full interview above for more discussion about her history in development and the events surrounding her breakout appearance at E3 2019, as well as some great location photography.