SERIES: Chicago Toy and Game’s Rising Star of the Year Nominees: In Their Own Words — Nick Metzler, Incubation and New Business Specialist at Spin Master

Mary Couzin
4 min readOct 26, 2018


Nick Metzler has been dreaming up creative games for 20 years — and he’s only 24. He won back-to-back Young Inventors Challenges in 2010 and 2011 and took home the Young Inventor of the Year Award in 2013. Metzler is a strong advocate for creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship, and fun.

Nick has been nominated for the Chicago Toy and Game Week Innovator of the Year Award which will be presented at this year’s ChiTAG Toy & Game Innovation Awards (TAGIEs) ceremony in the Ballroom at Navy Pier on November 16, 2018 from 6 p.m. — 10 p.m.

Nick Metzler in his own words:

I grew up just outside of Chicago surrounded by creativity and games. My mom believed that life could be fun no matter the situation and invented ways to keep me and my sister in a constant state of learning. For example, she would throw coins into the laundry so that when we were folding clothes, it felt like a treasure hunt. For birthday parties she used to create ‘Amazing Race’-type competitive games for my friends that also doubled as home improvement projects. Imagine a bunch of 10-year-old boys planting flowers in a perfect row — and having fun doing it!

It’s no surprise then, that I started designing games at four-years-old. My first game consisted of a cardboard controller and a finger puppet that allowed my family to play through my own levels. Later, inspired by Pokemon, I created my own trading card series (and several spinoff series) that featured 450 original characters and designed my own version of chess that included elements of luck (or else my sister wouldn’t play it with me).

I dabbled a bit in computer game design but was cranking out board games so quickly that I decided to devote my energy to good old marker and cardboard. By age 16, I had devised around 25 of these types of games when I discovered the Chicago Toy and Game Fair’s Young Inventors Challenge (YIC).

I couldn’t believe something like this existed, and that I was lucky enough to be raised just a few miles from it. Talk about being in the right place at the right time! I ended up winning the senior division that year with a game called “That’s Cheating!” and spent the next year promoting YIC in schools and on TV, and working on my next entry, a 3D board game called “Squashed.”

The next year the challenge had grown 500% and “Squashed” took home the top prize. The very next day I turned pro after licensing the game to PlaSmart. I went on to win the TAGIE for Young Inventor of the Year in 2013 for Squashed.

At the University of Southern California, I spread my wings a bit, designing challenges for “Survivor: Philippines”, creating games for philanthropy, and launching a 10-week course on entrepreneurship taught mostly through games.

My senior year was busy. I designed escape room concepts, interactive puzzles, and theme park attractions, attended classes, presided over the fraternity as President, and interned 20 hours a week at Spin Master, a children’s entertainment company. While there, I worked on games featuring characters from “Zootopia”, “Angry Birds”, “Paw Patrol”, and the Harry Potter and Marvel universes. More will be released later this year and in 2019.

Winning the Young Inventor of the Year set me on my current path and enabled me to cold-call Spin Master as a junior. Today I’m their Incubation and New Business Specialist.

I’m loving life, working to make the world a more fun and exciting place for everyone in it. I can’t fathom what the ramifications of winning the Rising Star Innovator of the Year award would be; all I know is I would be incredibly honored and humbled to win. The community has given me so much already, I want to give back on a larger scale every year. I’d imagine the award would pour jet fuel onto this mission in a significant way.

Above all, I’d like to share my story with others, with the hope that it stirs a desire to create within them as well. I believe that the world can be an incredibly fun place and I’m working daily to make it so. I’d like to share more about the new projects I’m working on… but that’s classified until next year ;)




Mary Couzin

President/Founder of Chicago Toy & Game Group, which hosts Chicago Toy & Game Fair, Inventor Conferences, Young Inventor Challenge, Toy & Game Inventor Awards.