One of the great features of The Montreal International Games Summit is the conferences and expert speakers that come every year to share their knowledge. Topics range from dissecting the look and feel of a particular game to innovations on Ray Tracing to enhance the capabilities of graphics presentation in gaming and beyond.
The conferences were very interesting due to the fact that up to four talks happen all at once and every attended has a listening device tuned to their speakers frequency. It made these conferences a little surreal but very easy to hear and follow along.
A highlight for me at MIGS this year was catching the talk from industry veteran Ikumi Nakamura titled Open Minded Creative Designs. This talk was designed to share her techniques and lessons learned as she worked through her most notable projects.
Ikumi made a big splash at E3 last year with her charm and infectious energy but she has been in the industry for over 14 years having worked on insanely popular titles like Okami, Bayonetta and The Evil Within franchise.
As she walked onto the stage, one of the first things she discussed was that her translator could not make it and she would try her best in English. I have to say I was beyond impressed at her persistence and courage as she worked incredibly hard to get her message across despite the language barrier.
One of her funny asides was that she was excited to be there even though talking in a foreign language to so many people makes her armpits sweat. These type of humor kept us chuckling all through the presentation
In her presentation Ikumi talked about how her father was the largest influence in her life as far as creativity and inspiration is concerned. They watched monster movies and horror movies together and he always encouraged her to think creatively and for herself.
He went to art school and right out of school joined Capcom and worked on the cult classic Okami doing background art. She was able to flex her artistic muscles on that project but got more freedom when she started work on Bayonetta.
She discussed how she was given a lot of concept art projects as part of that project in particular the accessories that she specifically designed to look like creatures or animals. The work she showed was stunning and this is where she started reinforcing what she felt everyone’s secret sauce was. In her opinion the secret sauce in every project is you (meaning everyone in the room.
Her idea with that statement is that you have to bring your experiences and motivations to every project. In Ikumi’s case the history with her father really impacted her motivations and how she approached character design. Her main opinion to everyone is to try and impact their work with their original ideas and thoughts or secret sauce.
She then moved on to Tango Gameworks and worked with legend Shinji Mikami as the concept artist on The Evil Within and The Evil Within 2. These projects and her next one as the Creative Director on GhostWire Tokyo let her dabble into the horror imagery she discovered with her father so many years ago.
She has since left Tango to head out on her own and jokingly asked if anyone has any jobs available. Based on her sheer skill, amazing personality and tenacity I doubt Ikumi will have any trouble joining any number of dream projects.
This was a great and inspiring talk both despite and because of her language barriers. Ikumi’s sheer enthusiasm about her craft and the industry as a whole shone through and made the entire crowd cheer loudly as she finished her presentation.