Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Nick Metzler: Game Master
Nick Metzler’s motto: live in the present while maximizing your potential for fun in the future. Not only does this attitude coincide nicely with his SoCal lifestyle while he finishes up his junior year at USC, it also serves to foster this young entrepreneur’s creativity as he constantly works to conceive of new and exciting ideas for original games.
Though only 20 years old, Nick has already experienced more professional success than most people do in their entire lifetime. For as long as he can remember, he has had a passion for creating games of all varieties-- board games, video games, card games, physical games, and his most recent interest: psychological interview games. What started as a childhood hobby has quickly turned into a promising career path highlighted by the use of one of his designs for a challenge on the hit reality TV show Survivor.
Nick attributes his success to his dynamic childhood and, most specifically, to his mom. Instead of succumbing to video games and endless hours of cartoons, Nick’s mom kept him on his toes with imaginary treasure hunts, tree-houses, and puzzles. When waiting for their food to arrive at restaurants, she would arrange the ketchup and mustard packets in specific orders and then challenge him to complete the pattern. As he grew older, he began combining his own ideas with his mom’s to create his own games.
For this reason, his favorite childhood toy was simply markers--as long as he had these he was free to develop a limitless amount of games to entertain himself. By the time he reached middle school, he had already created his own, quicker version of chess called “Extreme Chess,” a pokémon-type game with over 400 original characters, his own version of “Stratego,” designs for his own video games, and countless more.
Much of Nick’s creative process stems from his talent in recognizing and analyzing patterns. He begins with one single concept for a unique game that he thinks will entice his audience. He often comes up with this idea by thinking of patterns that current popular games follow and then continuing the pattern with an added, original flair. He then expands upon this single concept, often working backwards, until he has a complete product. According to Nick, he first asks himself, “How will people try to cheat in this game?” By thinking of all the potential ways to cheat, he is then able to create sufficient rules to prevent all types of cheating, while still allowing players the freedom to develop their own strategies.
Nick’s creative process reminded me of the personality traits that Sternberg describes in his 1984 study in the characteristics of a creative personality. I believe that Nick has many of these characteristics, particularly “integration and intellectuality,” “decisional skill and flexibility” and “drive for accomplishment and recognition.” He is highly innovative in his ability to put old ideas for games together in a new and exciting way, he has the natural instinct to know what types of games will succeed, and he is highly motivated to succeed in the business world. Nick attributes his creative personality to his parents. He explains that his father is logical and analytical, while his mother is free-thinking and excitable. By drawing on both his parents, he is able to conceive of original ideas that are still firmly grounded in reality.
Nick’s biggest achievement showcases a culmination of his creative process. Immediately following high school graduation, he flew out to the Pacific Islands to work on the Survivor Dream Team, designing challenges for the show. While there, he learned inner trade secrets about production and collaboration, and also continually pitched his own ideas to his boss. His perseverance paid off when his idea for a Vertical Spinning Wheel was taken up by the show. Nick created his own prototype of the wheel using a trash can lid and then watched his idea come to life when the production crew assembled a life size version.
Nick’s creations are dictated by whatever grabs his attention. Currently, he is working on a psychology minor at school to go along with his entrepreneurship major, and is fascinated by social psychology. To go along with his interest, he has been creating a series of psychological games to be conducted at job interviews, so that employers can get insight into their prospective employee’s personality. He expects these games to shape the future for job interviews and plans to make psychological games his new focus. However, if he ever gets bored with this angle, he will not hesitate to change directions. The most important thing for Nick is to stay consistent with his motto: live in the present while maximizing your potential for fun in the future.
Sternberg, Robert J.,Todd I. Lubart, James C. Kaufman, Jean E. Pretz. “Creativity.” The Cambridge Handbook of Thinking and Reasoning. 351-356.