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Nick Metzler - Video Conferencing in Unique Ways

I’m back in my parent’s basement.

Please step into my office, where I’ll give you a tour of my childhood bedroom. Life’s a little different in this quarantine. Many are working from home, social gatherings have been stalled, and the only respite is a friendly face digitally created through a screen. These unique circumstances have set the stage for a major change in how we communicate and experience life in just one short month. It’s lit a fuse on the explosive growth of video conferencing.

Something I really admire is human creativity combined with a playful attitude. Despite being in an unprecedented lockdown, humans all over have responded by finding a way forward much quicker than I ever would have imagined.

There’s been a parallel explosion of creativity within video conferencing. I’d like to put a spotlight on some of the most fun games I’ve experienced in just the past 2 weeks. It’s my hope that these examples may spark your creative thinking to bring more happiness and fun to the world in every industry during this unique period in history! My name is Nick Metzler, and I’m the Incubation and New Business Specialist for Spin Master in the games division.

Earlier today, Sunday April 19th, I got off a video call with my buddy Brian Wheeler. He’s a whiz kid coder, and he’s responded to this lockdown by stitching together a site that can play simple games with video conferencing built in. We digitally played a game of chess while virtually talking face to face. We both still hadn’t made it out of bed yet. While we’re all waiting for his prototype to become a product, I’ve also set up virtual happy hours with friends where we’ve played Jackbox Games (usually Quiplash) by screensharing and yelling over one another. Until Brian’s Cards Against Humanity digital + video remix is out next week, we’ll be all over Jackbox. You heard it here first!

Now some people might shame me for not leaving bed until noon. But cut me some slack, I was up until 2am last night monitoring a new social strategy game hosted entirely on Zoom. About 2 weeks ago my friend Will Yelton called me up with an idea for a new show called Quarantine. He got a crew together (no one was doing anything in the film world) and got applications from over 50 people. Together with the crew, we developed the entire show that would run until mid-May. Last night, 16 strangers from all walks of life in multiple different countries met for the first time on Zoom during the show’s first episode. And on Monday, one of them is going to get banished by one of their own! You don’t need to be in the professional film world to make something like this happen though, my friend’s younger sister (16) was just part of a Big Brother spinoff game hosted by her friends entirely through Snapchat!

A few months back I played a Survivor style game in the mosquito-ridden woods of Minnesota. The event was called Live To Give, and each contestant raises money for a cause of their choice, mine being the Young Inventor’s Challenge in the Chicago Toy and Game Fair. We then competed against each other, with the winner donating the collective sum to their cause! 20 of us raised over $42,000 for the event, and when the lockdown started going into effect, I was worried it might disrupt plans for future years. Without missing a beat, the organizers Brandon Nelson and Alex Wagner ran some prototypes of a Live To Give Mini, hosted entirely on Skype. On last Friday night, 16 players each donated money and played a rapid game online over the course of 6 hours and 10 Skype rooms, stretching the limits of what Skype was meant to be used for. The amount of jumping between calls was astounding.

I met my friend Myles Nye while I was designing challenges for Survivor. He runs a corporate team-building games and events company which are SO unique and SO much fun. This past week I was thinking about how his business would be impacted, since everything they do is physical events. To my delight, I received a marketing email from them this past weekend where they announced that they had rapidly adapted many of their games to be hosted entirely on video conferencing, a monumental task but not if you’re a Survivor challenge designer like Myles. If you’re looking for corporate team building in this wild time, these are the guys!

This was my past 2 weeks. The incredible human ingenuity to create new game and play experiences never ceases to amaze me! I hope these ideas spark some creativity in yourself, because you too can be part of this seismic shift. We’ll need everyone’s help to create this new reality! If all this happened in 2 weeks… I can’t wait to see what games pop up in the next 2 weeks. Stay tuned.

Nick Metzler is the Incubation and New Business Specialist for the Spin Master Games Division. He integrates new technologies into board games such as smart speakers and augmented reality. He’s designed 25 board games in 5 years and was the winner of the Chicago Young Inventor Challenge at the Chicago Toy and Game Fair in 2010 and 2011.

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