Southland toymaking college student a hit at ChiTAG
By Denise O’Neal Sun-Times Media November 22, 2013 8:48AM
Nick Metzler, of Orland Park, displays his cube-shaped board game Squashed.
CHICAGO TOY & GAME FAIR
♦ 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Nov. 23, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Nov. 24
♦ Navy Pier’s Festival Hall A, 600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago
♦ Admission, $5-$10
♦ chitag.com or Chicago Toy & Game Group at (847) 677-8277
Updated: December 23, 2013 1:40PM
“Chicago is the city that works — and plays,” said Mary Couzin, chief executive officer and founder of Chicago Toy & Game Group. “It’s the largest toy hub in the country.”
In fact, under Mayor Richard Daley, Couzin said, “there was talk of billing Chicago as the ‘toy capital of the country.’ ”
People are invited to come out and play during the Chicago Toy & Game Fair at Navy Pier, where big-name toy companies along with one-brand shops will display their products. (Some will be available for purchase.)
ChiTAG’s “hot picks” for 2013 include: Kickboard USA Maxi Micro Scooters; Razor Crazy Cart (available exclusively at Toys R Us) — allows movement in any direction; Furby Boom — Hasbro’s lovable alien-looking plush with its own language is upgraded with an iOS app that takes interactive play to a new level; Jumbo Bananagrams — oversized tiles floor version of the Bananagrams word game; Settlers of Catan board game — a history buff’s dream; LeapFrog Ultra Tablet — graphics and camera similar to real tablets in an uber-tough frame; Ionix Tenkai Knights — shape-shifting construction bricks that morph into new designs on their own; Planet Sock Monkey — a limited edition of the sock puppet updated with personality-plus; HolograFX Show Game — a dazzling magic show with smartphones and iPod touch; and Flutterbye Flying Fairy — guiding the flight of the mystical flying doll.
ChiTAG is also fertile ground for new inventors. One of the more popular attractions is the Young Inventor Challenge, for ages 6-18, where kids can demo their inventions. Orland Park teen Nick Metzler, a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Southern California who invented his first game at age 4 — a puppet video game based on the Super Mario Bros. series — won the YIC challenge in 2010 and 2011.
“When Nick memorized my chocolate chip cookie recipe at age 2, we recognized his giftedness,” his mom, Maria, said. “As his parents, we found his abilities both humbling and daunting. We still do. We gave him as normal a life as possible while supporting his dreams.”
Metzler returns to ChiTAG as a nominee for the organization’s Toy and Game Inventor Award for young inventor of the year. TAGIE takes place at 6 p.m. Nov. 22 in Navy Pier’s Grand Ballroom (tickets are $250).
Metzler’s 2011 YIC-winning entry is Squashed, the world’s first cube-shaped board game featuring elements of chess (pieces are kings and pawns), and has players literally squashing opponent’s pieces as they use logic navigating spaces around the cube to win. The game was picked up by PlaSmart (plasmarttoys.com/product-squashed.html) for retail sale.
“Squashed had longtime inventors wondering why they hadn’t come up with the idea of a cube board game,” Couzin said.
Metzler, who formed his own company — Messy Desk Ideas Inc., said he has bigger platforms in mind including television, which isn’t as big a quantum leap as it sounds. Metzler spent summer working as part of the Dream Team, setting up, painting and testing challenges for the TV show “Survivor.” He met Mark Burnett, the show’s producer, after a seminar where Burnett was guest speaker.
“I told [Burnett] my dream job would be working on the ‘Survivor’ set,” Metzler said.
Metzler submitted his application and was selected. After his stint on the set, Metzler submitted challenge designs, which is all he could reveal because of a “no-talk” clause in his contract with the TV reality series. (The next installment of “Survivor” airs in spring.)
“The best job is one having fun doing something you love,” Metzler said.