Ikumi Nakamura is best known to you, while still reading this opening sentence, as a games artist and director who has worked on everything from Okami to Bayonetta to The Evil Within to Ghostwire: Tokyo. Did you know, though, that for over a decade she has also been a prolific urban explorer?
I sure as *** did not! But since 2009 she has been posting photos online as TommyBoy, to a website cataloguing photos of abandoned spaces in locations as diverse as Japan, Alaska, Bali and Mexico. The site’s bio simply says
Hi! I’m Japansese urban explorer ‘Tommy’. I enjoy urban exploration all over the world.
But today publisher Read-Only Memory announced that TommyBoy was actually Nakamura, and did so because they’ve decided to release a book together, collecting some of her favourite photos in print for the first time ever. That book is called Project UrbEx, and it looks gorgeous.
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Described as “a thrilling photographic adventure around an offbeat selection of the world’s abandoned buildings, captured by one of the videogame industry’s most beloved creatives”, it’s 256 pages of photos and diary excerpts by Nakamura, and is available in a number of different formats.
Famed videogame creator Ikumi Nakamura became widely known after she gave a speech about a “spooooky” game, Ghostwire: Tokyo, at the prestigious E3 conference. Her talent, infectious personality and strong sense of wonder for the world – “I think I haven’t changed much since I was a kid” – has attracted a global cult following. What many fans don’t know, however, is that Nakamura has a secret alter ego in the form of ‘TommyBoy’ – a fearless urban explorer.
For years Nakamura has been traversing the planet to go to under-the-radar abandoned buildings, from the Igloo Hotel in Alaska, a magnificent dome structure housing an intricate carousel-like wooden framework, to a mysterious liquor factory in Mexico with a giant replica bottle on its roof and the disused Blue Horizon Boxing Ring, where Rocky (1976) was filmed. Working in the gaming industry for nearly two decades, Nakamura has dreamt up many imagined worlds, but it’s these forgotten corners of the real world that truly fire her creative vision. Her photographic eye evokes the survival-horror feel of her own dystopian videogames.
With Google Maps at our fingertips, it can often feel impossible to get lost or discover anything novel, but through her daring escapades Nakamura taps into a lost spirit of true adventure. Hers is an enthusiastic brand of tour guiding, taking the reader to eye-opening spaces and atmospheres through exceptional photography and transporting – and sometimes amusing – stories.
Her pictures, gathered here in print for the first time, reveal that, from Japan and the United States, from Belgium to Taiwan, and from Spain to Bali, our planet is teeming with human-made structures lying derelict and undisturbed, waiting to be discovered by intrepid explorers.
The revelation certainly makes sense in hindsight! Last year Nakamura filmed a video about her history in the industry and her new video game studio with Archipel, and did so while exploring some lost buildings; turns out what looked at the time like some location scouting or just a cool backdrop for an interview was actually very much this.
You can order a copy here.