PERSPECTIVES: A Conversation with Warren Buckleitner, Children’s Technology Expert
May 17, 2012 |
Initiated in 1998, National Inventors Month takes place each May to celebrate the inventions, innovation and creativity of America’s inventor community. In honor of the celebration, Toy News Tuesday
editors spoke to a young game inventor who has already received accolades for his creations.
Meet Nicholas Metzler, 18, from Orland Park, Illinois. Nick is president of his own company, the creator of the popular board game “Squashed,” and winner of the “Young Inventor Challenge” at The Chicago Toy & Game Fair (ChiTAG) two years in a row (2010 and 2011).
TNT: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself – what are your hobbies, passions and favorite subjects in school?
NM: I have so many interests it seems that they all build upon each other. I enjoy games, both playing and creating them. I not only enjoy board games, but I also love large group social games such as Survivor and Apples to Apples. I am heavily involved in creating interactive games/activities for my church teen club. I enjoy hanging out with my friends playing pick-up sports or organized activities through school. Despite being incredibly active with others, I relish my independent time for pursuing my own interests such as playing pool or video games.
In school, my favorite subjects range from Physics to World War 2 to Art.
TNT: What was your absolute favorite toy growing up?
NM: LEGO has been my favorite toy for many years, but what has changed for me over the years has been how I played with them. When I was younger, I only followed the directions to make creations with the goal of making them as fast as I could. Over the course of time, my interests evolved and I began using LEGO blocks to make my own elaborate creations in games and tools that I needed around my room.
TNT: How did your first invention come about? How old were you when you came up with the idea?
NM: My first invention was a spin-off of Pokémon cards. Over the course of 10 years I designed trading cards starting at the age of 5. I was so enthralled with drawing and creation that I began designing my own ‘paper’ video games with puppets as the players. The levels took up our entire living room floor when laid out! I then moved onto making cardboard and paper labyrinths and a pinball machine with manual flippers. After I realized that puppet video games and manual pinball were boring, at the age of 12 I ventured into game-making. It’s hard for me to describe how a single invention came about except to say that my mom turned every activity that I can remember into some sort of game my whole life. Whether it was beat the clock emptying the dishwasher or hunting for treasure while folding laundry, my life was a series of games; even academia was fun because of the way we approached it. I can remember planning my seventh birthday party to resemble the Mario Party video games!
TNT: Can you describe your first popular invention?
NM: My early inventions were less than popular, in fact I remember my parents telling me that a few were not even fun at all! My first popular invention was my second entry into ChiTAG’s “Young Inventor Challenge” in 2011 – a game called “Squashed.” I believe it became popular because it was different from a standard board game as it was in the shape of a cube. By using magnetic pieces, I was able to integrate the use of all 6 sides of the cube. However, the game caught the eye of many ChiTAG convention attendees – who voted for the winner of the challenge – because of the time I spent designing the artwork on my display board. Once I had the attention of an interested participant, the game itself drew them in.
TNT: How many games have you invented? What is your proudest accomplishment?
NM: I’ve invented approximately 18 board and card games to date with the plan of topping more than 20 by the end of this year. My proudest accomplishment definitely has to be becoming the president of my own company, Messy Desk Ideas Inc., which was formed earlier this year to support my licensing agreement for my board game “Squashed.”
TNT: Do you find it to be competitive or difficult for young inventors to get their start?
NM: No, in fact, I found myself so welcomed by the game and toy community that I couldn’t wait to enter the Young Inventor Challenge at ChiTAG the following year. I was introduced to the competition at ChiTAG 2009 just by talking to professional game inventors, listening to their stories, and having many of my questions answered about becoming an inventor myself. Whether it is games or other inventions, kids are often just as capable with original ideas of their own!
TNT: What advice would you give to kids a few years younger than you who have always dreamed of seeing their inventions come to life?
NM: Much of my successes came about through working with my parents. If I were to give advice, I would say to turn to the better judgment of your parents, and look around for any opportunities to get yourself or your invention noticed in front of judges or the public eye. Show your invention to as many people as you can and listen to their input, especially if it is discouraging. Some of the best changes come about through just one honest review.
TNT: What are you going to be doing now that you’ve graduated high school? What are your future aspirations?
NM: Starting in the fall of 2012, I will be attending the University of Southern California in the Marshall School of Business with an emphasis on Entrepreneurship. I hope to explore as many classes and extracurricular activities as I can while at USC. It is my lifelong goal to enjoy whatever it is I am doing, whether it is in my professional career or in my personal life.