What is this? A genius-level DIY game arcade that will make you start hoarding cardboard boxes
Who made it? Nine year old Caine Monroy from East LA
Awesome element: The brilliance of the Fun Pass — a representation of a child’s game-play dreams, and a shrewd business move all in one.
What’s the story? Caine Monroy is a nine year old with a passion for carnival-style games so deep that he built his own arcade using the resources around him: cardboard boxes from his dad’s used auto parts business. Set in a tougher part of Los Angeles, his fully-operational/fully-adorable arcade got no customers until the day Nirvan Mullick stopped by while looking for a car part and spotted the genius that this kid radiates. Nirvan subsequently produced a 10 minute documentary about Caine and his arcade, and built a website to help raise funds for Caine’s college tuition fund. A very warmly told tale, the story made the news on every major outlet by the end fo the week it was launched. I highly recommend you watch his video if you haven’t yet.
The scenes in the video looked familiar to me, and for good reason — it turns out that Caine’s Arcade is seven miles from where I live, on a street I’ve cut through various times as a shortcut to Union Station. The arcade is only open on the weekends (don’t forget, Caine is in school), so I headed there on the Saturday after the film was released. Here are my photos and notes from that experience.
It seemed that everyone in LA (and even some from over 7 hours away) had come to check out the cleverly devised arcade. Downside: no parking -- we found a spot a few blocks away and hiked to the store, crossing the intersection of Interstates 10 and 101.
The line of people waiting in front of "Smart Parts," Caine's dad's used auto parts store.
And that line only got longer as the day went on. There were easily 200 people there at any given moment, likely many more.
Despite the long line and its negative-digits pace, attendees were giddy and in grand spirits.
Caine is an instant celebrity, but he's all business. Full of hustle, he'd pause for a moment when asked for a photo, but then immediately ask "Do you need a Fun Pass?"
And then run back to his DIY arcade counter to deposit the cash (which he had by the fistful).
Posing with more fans, a stack of Fun Passes under his arm.
With all the attention, Caine had a team of friends helping out, wearing his trademark blue "Staff" shirts.
Simple but enjoyable games. One young kid excitedly remarked that he can come back to play anytime with his 500-play Fun Pass.
Taking a quick water break between customers.
Behind the shop, more helpers were carving up cardboard boxes and painting them into Fun Passes. Caine would periodically run back, add his security codes, then dash back to the line of people to sell more.
Gritty, but the environment provides lots of potential for creativity and resources.
Shirts and hats for sale; Caine's family created major goodwill with free pizzas and drinks for the attendees.
Nirvan, the filmmaker who stumbled upon the arcade and created the mini-documentary, interviewed by various media outlets throughout the day.
Many people in the crowd thought this police officer was going to shut things down due to the street and sidewalk blockage. He just wanted to meet the young celebrity.
And pose for a photo.
Similar to Caine, his dad George kept calm and focused through the day, making sure thing were running smooth and everyone was being treated well.
With the worldwide attention, $152,000 was raised online for Caine's college fund, appropriately awarded to him with an oversized cardboard check from "The Internet." (photo by instagram user goeastlos, click for original)