9-year-old's DIY cardboard arcade gets flashmobbed

Nirvan says: "I just finished this short film about a 9-year-old boy's elaborate DIY cardboard arcade. Caine made his arcade using boxes from his dad's used auto parts store. He hadn't had many customers, so we set up a fun flashmob to make his day, and filmed his response. I hope it brings a smile to your day. P.S. Caine's Arcade is in East LA. You should visit it sometime - Caine is still building new additions!"

Caine Monroy is a 9-year old boy who spent his summer vacation building an elaborate DIY cardboard arcade in his dad’s used auto parts store.

Caine dreamed of the day he would have lots of customers visit his arcade, and he spent months preparing everything, perfecting the game design, making displays for the prizes, designing elaborate security systems, and hand labeling paper-lunch-gift-bags. However, his dad’s autoparts store (located in an industrial part of East LA) gets almost zero foot traffic, so Caine’s chances of getting a customer were very small, and the few walk in customers that came through were always in too much of a hurry to get their auto part to play Caine’s Arcade. But Caine never gave up.

One day, by chance, I walked into Smart Parts Auto looking for a used door handle for my ’96 Corolla. What I found was an elaborate handmade cardboard arcade manned by a young boy who asked if I would like to play. I asked Caine how it worked and he told me that for $1 I could get two turns, or for $2 I could get a Fun Pass with 500 turns. I got the Fun Pass.


    1. especially with adult encouragement and support. acknowledging a child’s interest and skill goes a long long way.  

      1. Yes, I like that they just let him be a 9-year-old kid.  They didn’t DIScourage him, which happens way too often in this world, to people of all ages.  He kind of withdrew from his friends at school when they dissed him on it. 

        It’s so important to tell kids to ignore people who discourage them.  So glad this kid just kept on rolling, enjoying himself – and look what happened!

  1. I loved it. The song, the ideas.. the ‘validation numbers’ on the pass made me smile.
    I did something like this when I was young but nothing so elaborate. Waiting for a snark somewhere in these posts but none so far.. yay!

  2. Get that kid to an engineering school!

    It’s nice to see something completely positive now and then. Thank you Nirvan.

      1. It has to be the right place – something like http://www.rose-hulman.edu/ where you learn a lot, do a lot of hands on work, have useful and fun projects, the classes are small, and the teachers are people who’ve actually had real jobs and like what they’re doing.

        1. not to be a downer, but I went to Purdue (which was an awesome experience) and all my friends at RH hated it. He’d do awesome at Cal Tech, which is a great school (and closer than Indiana.)

        2.  You guys are bumming me out. I went to Rose and loved it. But I’m a hands on kind of guy. I loved being in the lab all the time and making things, and yeah, looking back, the punishing workload.

        3. I went to a crappy engineering school but turned out just fine.  What you take from school is the basics for your field of study. 

          If you have support and a love of what you want to do, it won’t matter where you go…. F=ma, V=IR, and E=1/2mv^2 everywhere

  3.  Nine-year-olds (fourth graders) are the best! Really, it the point when kids reach their height of intelligence and ingenuity while still in the innocence of childhood. I worked for six years as a volunteer classroom assistant with mostly immigrant/working-class fourth graders. Every day was some version of Caine’s Arcade — but without the flashmob.

    1. Man, I so love this comment. Spot on. [Former 4th/5th grade teacher, here.] Senile digression: I actually cried the night before my tenth birthday, and when my dad came into the bedroom and asked what was wrong I said, “Nine was perfect! I don’t want to turn ten!” How my dear old Mexican-American father would have loved this video — miss you, Dad [sheds tear].

  4. The world needs more love and kindness like this. I am smiling ear to ear at Caines creativity, never quit attitude, and the kindness of thousands who made this kid happier than any of us can imagine. 

  5. As the father of 4 young boys (10, 10, 7, 4), I didn’t make it far before shedding a tear. 
    Kids + cardboard + tape + imagination = awesome.
    We could use more people like Caine, his dad, and Nirvan.

  6. IMO we could especially use more folks like Nirvan.

    So much of my childhood felt like I was biding my time until I had some actual agency… and I’m afraid the habit’s persisted.

    Kids need enabling.

  7. You know, just when I’ve reached the point of irreversibly hating humanity, you have to throw this at me. Not fair, not fair. 

  8. when my hope in humanity container is almost empty, a kid like this one shows up and tops it up

  9. It’s a wonderful film and story, but you do have to suspend belief and forget there’s a cameraman in the car. If a cameraman came with my dad to a pizza parlor to film me, I might get an inkling this wasn’t going to be a normal Sunday. It’s still great. Maybe more people will now take their Sunday afternoon stroll past Caine’s store.

    1. We started filming with Caine the day before the flashmob. We filmed his normal day routine, and then told him we wanted to get some footage of him at Shakey’s Pizza where he won the first toy hoop he used to build his basketball game. As soon as he and his dad left, everyone started to arrive for the big surprise. He knew we were making a little film, but he had no idea about the flashmob surprise. :)

      1. Sometimes the world makes me sad and the world seems like a terrible place.  Then there are films like this about people like Caine and his arcade that remind me that there are truly wonderful things in this world and that people can be AWESOME sometimes.

        Thanks for that.  I hope my contribution to Caine’s future helps to carry him to wherever he’s destined to go.  

      2. Dear Nirvan – Thank you so much for your wonderful film, and for introducing all of us to Caine and his lovely dad. The shots at Shakey’s and in the car had ZERO impact on my ability to suspend disbelief. People are constantly filming each other these days, anyway.  

      3. I was wondering the same thing.  Thanks for the explanation!  (And for a wonderful film, and for a wonderful gift for Caine.) 

      4.  Mr Nirvan,

        I’m not sure which you should be prouder of:
        – A really great film, filmed with love, that tells a wonderful story
        – Organizing the flash mob
        – The overwhelming support you’ve generated for a great kid

        Topping this would be nearly impossible.
        Never-the-less, I challenge you to make at least one film with this type of vision every year.
        If you do, you will become my favorite filmmaker.
        You’re already one of my favorite people.


  10. This is fantastic – and I hope Caine manages to get the money for his scholarship fund. He deserves it.

  11. This takes me back to my days of creating puppets, props and stages to put on show for my families. I was nowhere near as clever as this kid though. And yes, I also did cry the tears of joy. Thanks for sharing.

  12. This is the best thing I’ve seen in a long, long time. Also, great job on the video, Nirvan.

  13. Thanks everybody, I’m floored by these comments. I’m going to send them to Caine and his dad. We’re having a screening this Saturday at Caine’s Arcade. Over $2,300 was raised toward Caine’s scholarship fund today! Also, he was comissioned to build a cardboard claw machine. Current rate is $80 (stocked w toys) for LA area. Connect with Caine on fb/cainesarcade and twitter @cainesarcade.

    1. Seriously awesome story.

      How about a follow-up film in nine years when he leaves for college?  It looks like his scholarship fund is growing nicely.

  14. I nominate this for an award in the category of Wonderful Things: “Best use of a flashmob ever”!

  15. *sniff* That was the sweetest thing ever! I hope that Caine will continue to get customers. If I lived a bit closer I would definitely go. $2 for a Fun Pass, can’t beat a deal like that!

  16. Must be getting lottsa hits this one. Could not sight the vid on BB, or on the dedicated website but did find it on the facebook page  – and it was worth the searching!
    My this young fella is well connected.  All power to you Caine.

  17. fantastic – Caine may I welcome you as supreme overlord (in perpetuity) of humanity for your intelligence, creativity, and unstoppable ability to bring happiness with the best smile EVER !

  18. I want to be 9 again. My Dad built me a pinball machine out of plywood and foam rubber and I ran a similar arcade in my basement with it. Sadly, we didn’t have reddit or flashmobs back then. Cool Dads, like Caine’s, rule!

  19. I fondly remember building airplanes out of cardboard and tape as a 9-12 year old. Even cut flaps to function as ailerons, rudders and elevators. I was always amazed when the plane glided in the right directions. I’d build these things for hours on my kitchen floor.

    It’s tough trying to capture that feeling as an adult. But I think it’s worth the effort.

    Keep at it kid.

  20. Absolutely adorable. That kid is amazing. Reminds me of the giant cardboard/blanket forts I made at about that age, but way more ingenious. Using the calculators to verify the fun passes is especially clever. Bravo, Caine. :D I live all the way in Indiana or I would visit myself. 

  21. Wow, awesome, awesome post. Thanks for sharing this.  My youngest son is 10. I can see him starting something like this, but not sticking with it.

    I see so many negative things every minute of every day. Something like this is so uplifting and helps to restore my faith in my fellow man.

  22. I am seriously planning a trip to LA just to visit Caine’s Arcade. This has so much awesome in it…. well, it has so much awesome that it is completely awesome! I remember doing something similar one year when I was a youngster. But, I only made one cardboard arcade game and it did not work very well, so I gave up. My hat is off to you Caine! You rock!

  23. What a great piece, and a big congratulations Nirvan for actually taking the time to stop and really experience Caine’s cardboard creation. I am convinced that if more of us adults treated kids like we wanted to be treated when we were kids, the world would be way more fun. 

  24. This video is full of love, good intentions, and hope. You made Caine’s day, and filled mine with warm feelings.  Thanks for doing it for Caine, thanks for doing it for everyone. 

  25. Amazing. Just amazing. What I’d really like to see now is Caine getting a tour of Disney Imagineering…. Surely there is SOMEONE from Disney here. I mean, Disney tends to be good with scholarships….and a tour to go with it would be great. Isn’t think the sort of imagination and creativity that is too often beaten out of us as we reach adulthood? Sponsor this kid.

  26. I liked the spirit of the flashmob – very sweet and homemade just like the arcade. I liked how all the kids seemed to be having fun playing the games. Super cute. Thanks for sharing with us.

  27. Cain market these cardboard wonders to IKEA….they will love them its right up their alley then you can pay for college ten times over.  I will happily buy my own claw machine ;) Thanks for making my day, Cain, Nirvan and to Cain’s Dad for encouraging his creativity ;))

  28. The COOLEST thing in the world today!
    Thank you Nirvan, for making Caine’s day.
    Thank you to Caine’s dad for allowing him the freedom to be so creative.
    Thank you Caine, for creating A) Your own business, and B) making it so much FUN!  Wish I could’ve been there…

  29. This right here is why I love humanity so much.  The internet is full of negativity and cynicism.  However, to see it used for such a good cause and to embrace joy so fully is just wonderful to see.

  30. his dad should buy him lots of buckets of paints, and then he could paint his arcade to make it colorful and it’d be even more beautiful than ever! it’d be like a real arcade! 

  31. As a dad, this story makes me feel especially GREAT about being a dad.  He’s raising a great kid, and such a good dad. What an inspiration.

  32. This video has me in joyous tears!! Kudos to Caine’s father for supporting/encouraging him, kudos to Caine for getting away from the television and using his mind and determination, and kudos to Nirvan for doing this video and setting up the flashmob – this is what humanity is suppose to be about. I love this.

  33. Caine is such an inventive young man, and I really admire his ambition in creating something so cool and filled with clever things.  He’s a young man destined to go far in life!  And thank you, Nirvan, for capturing Caine’s Arcade and putting in motion one of the coolest Flashmobs ever!  Congratulations all around! Thanks so much for sharing this!

  34. The calculators that are used to validate the fun passes are brilliant! You get a PIN number on the pass (453 was the one they showed) and you type it into the calculator, hit the “check” button (you know, the one with the tick mark on it), and you get a validation code (21.283796…).
    Kid’s a genius!

    1. Indeed, it would be great to organize a trip for him and his arcade to go to the SF Maker Faire. 

  35. The LA Robotics Club rewards young people for ideas like this. Caine should join and make a real electronic arcade machine.

  36. What a refreshing, delightful story! I have two little boys and I recognize that same sparkle and enthusiasm for life that my boys have. Wonderful!

  37. now why can’t we all be this decent to each other everyday…something like this will always stay with Cain and he will talk about it years and years from now…but how about just a smile or a thank you or holding the door for someone…small steps like this will change the world

  38. Caine is definitely awesome…such talent and such imagination.  But, Nirvan!  Thanks for taking the time to play his games, learn more and share it with all of us.  

  39. What a great story, great filmmaker, great dad and great kid!  As special as Caine is, what really gets me is how normal he also is.  That innocent and untroubled enthusiasm is universal, but not impervious.  Where does it go? 

  40. Thanks for showcasing Caine! My crappy day just got better. What a brilliant young creative mind! 

  41. Fantastic! This is what the American spirit is all about…Best of luck to this young man and his family, and a hardy thanks to all who participated, and Nirvan and his production crew…brought tears to an old guy’s eyes…

  42. I just met my new 4th grade class (taking over for a maternity leave) and saw this on my lunch break. I am newly inspired (and less terrified). Perhaps a cardboard curriculum is the way to go? If you had seen this film as a 4th grader would you have been inspired?

    1. Absolutely. While in college I had the opportunity to teach some kids at an alternative school where stuff like this is common place. I think that teaching subjects separately and without hands on experience is a mistake. This could easily be an art, current events, and math lesson. I know inspiration isn’t an official subject they teach in schools, but how else did we all manage to make it through? I’m happy to hear you are thinking about showing this to your class and making it into a lesson. :) Your efforts will not be in vain. At least one of those kids may discover they are like Caine.

  43. Love it. 

    But isn’t it a little sad that the customers who did come to the Auto Parts store couldn’t be bothered to play one of the kid’s games? I don’t think I’ve ever walked past a kid selling lemonade without buying a cup… 

  44. Ugh…guys I think I found a security exploit in his fun pass system. It seems like the check sum is just the square root of your fun pass number. This seems like a serious flaw.

  45. This is so amazing I am sqeualing with happiness, and not just because Caine’s a cute kid with ingenuity who’s encouraged to be productive with his free time, but because Nirvan and everyone else who came put all this energy into making a kid feel happy and validated. 

  46. That was amazing – Those might have been my first tears of happiness – I’m not a crier. Can’t be said enough – Coolest kid – & way to go Dad & filmmaker for being awesome! Life’s not so bad after all :) 

  47. Did anyone else get this vibe: “That’s East LA? Doesn’t seem like a bad place.” I feel like I could walk down that street now that I know someone (2 people )there. That is the unrealized potential of good story telling – breaks down barriers and reminds us that for all our differences, we really aren’t that different.  Good job Nirvan!

  48. It’s hard to imagine Boing Boing finding anything in the future that more highly qualifies as a Wonderful Thing.

  49. Little homie is a genius. I needed this; seriously, this  is the best thing I’ve seen in a long time. Good luck to this kid and his dad. Don’t let that imagination fade.

  50.  Hit the “enter” key by mistake… Meant to also say, “This kid is why I’m hopeful for the future.”

  51. This made me cry… Reminds me off making cities with matchbox cars and thomas the train engine toys as a kid.

  52. Man this kid succeeded because he was working with his heart, guarantee money wasn’t a motivator for him but rather a factor that is involved in an arcade. 


  54. What a wonderful way to close out the evening. Thank you for sharing a great story about passion and the lovely wonder of being a child. It’s always a nice reminder.

  55. Just donated to Caine’s scholarship fund. Talk about a great use of money – I know this young man will go VERY far! Good for him….

  56. This is the sweetest thing ever, I cried sissy tears.

    One day in the future I hope I can go to his arcade!  Or whatever other crazy awesome thing he comes up with :>

  57. He is darlin!  Reminds me of when I was a little entrepreneur myself in elementary school.  My grandmother gave me yogurt pops and I would resale them to my friends for a quarter since it was cheaper than the ice cream man.  I see great things for this young man!

  58. saw this story, and the one about Rick Santorum dropping out of the Republican primary – faith in humanity restored (if only for a little while)

  59. Great story!  Well done documentary and kudos to Caine and his dad!

    Thanks for a great inspiring story!The real power of the internet!

  60. Nirvan, I’ll be looking you up and sending you a FB request — I want to know what you do from here on.  Thanks SO MUCH for this.  
    Caine, may you continue to thoroughly enjoy all you do in life.  Congratulations on your arcade’s success! 

  61. This is just too sweet! He is such a smart boy.. good for him! Totally deserved this!! What a cutie pie!!

  62. I’m going to look up the address for the shop and send him $2 for my honorary “Fun Pass”!!! How cool would he think THAT was to get it in the mail??

  63. This is one of the most uplifting films I have ever seen. You are all very talented, it touched my heart, I have tears, really. I am not a cry-guy. The story is so beautifully planned and executed. Caine is really an amazing little boy, so full of ingenuity and happiness, following his bliss and not caring about who shows up. That’s the best part, he did it all for himself and now YOU come along and become his angel. While you think you touched the life of a little boy, your short film becomes the theme for the lives of those with a dream. Great Work and thank you so much for making tiny little film. 

  64. Kudos to you, Nirvan!  What an impact you had on this little boy when you bought a fun pass.  That alone made his day!  I can’t believe so few bought a $1 ticket from him.  Have we forgotten the joy that something so small can bring to a little one?  I had the ugly cry going… so glad I’m not the only one!  Ha! 

    Best of luck to you, Caine!  I live in Iowa but this makes me want to fly out to LA & play some arcade games!! :)

  65. Mary Lou Haugh – wonderful life can evolve when parents take the time and encourage their children.  Caine made my day ! I can imagine he now inspires other kids with hidden ideas about their dreams to pursue. Hooray for Caine and hooray for his dad! Thank you for your grand happy life.

  66. awesome story what a great kid. Also want to commend you for helping him out that was very nice and inspirational. 

  67. Hooray for Cain and his dad for encouraging him every step of the way.   Caine made my day, and he inspires others I’m sure with his fun creative development. He is amazing!

  68. Nirvan,

    Thank you very much for making and sharing this inspiring film. This is one of the best 10 minutes I have ever spent. Caine’s Arcade is now permanently on my radar and I cannot wait to go. 

    Caine, you’re a brilliant kid!

  69. That’s just awesome. It’s nice to see kids still do stuff like this. If he keeps up this attitude he’s going to go places. 

  70. I’d love it if he made enough to start buying actual games to restore and build a real arcade. he’s got the tenacity and drive to succeed… Way to go Caine.

  71. I’ve now just gotten a new hero, his name is Caine Monroy and his arcade is over at corner of Mission and Ceasar Chavez highway in East LA. Please see the video and bring some light to your day. And maybe a tear. Then get your asses over and show this young man some support- he’s got a hell of a work ethic!!! Paco

  72. Nirvan, it was very nice getting the pleasure of meeting you through the effort and foresight you placed on getting Caine’s story out to all of us. Speaking for all, and Caine and his Dad- Thank You for showing an interest!!!!!!!  You’re a good man.  


  73. Caine, you are most absolutely, definitely, certifiably the man! I’d give ANYthing to visit your arcade and play those games! Keep up the great work, pal!

  74. This was one of the best things I’ve seen in a long time. Someone should explain to Caine what the Disney Imagineers do, because I think making magic is in this kid’s future.

  75. We ought to share the internet’s good will with Caine’s father who clearly is doing an excellent job of raising and encouraging his son.  If anyone needs car parts, please consider looking Caine’s father up on Ebay.

  76. Thank you, Nirvan. These are the kind of short films that I love to see.  Real people. Real Life. Positive. Uplifting. Thought-provoking. You didn’t just walk away…you came back with a MOB!  AMEN!

  77. An imaginative kid, a cool and supportive Dad, and a thoughtful customer/filmmaker equals a sweet and lovely story. This is so beautiful! Something like this will inspire Caine for years. What an awesome memory to carry with you through life!

  78. i am very glad that this little boy can think big!!!…Caine dont give up on your dream!!! we all need big dreamer like you!!!!!….Wish i can be there to play your games and I know my kids will love them too!!!

  79. THIS is the creative power of boys.

    Notice how there was no way for him to access and practice this creativity in the school system.  Compulsory government schools are designed to punish, medicate and squelch this kind of male creative spirit.

  80. Nirvan, thank you for being a genius and showcasing Caine’s arcade. I have to watch it twice and twice I choke up, especially on the moment when he starts to realize he had players waiting.

    Keep making videos like this that uplifts the human spirit. Special thanks to all your crew, even the special music for Caine (with an E)! Great details and wonderful storyline. 

    More power to Caine and the encouraging Dad.  Thank you thank you! 

  81. Support the Cal State University System! This way, we can support the talents of Caine, and all the other creative, smart and innovative young humans in California!

  82. Nirvan, thanks for sharing that story, and taking the time to make Caine’s day. You’ve got a heart of gold and I hope filmmaking success comes to you, you deserve it. YOu’ve inspired me to want to bring that kind of joy to children as well… I’ll let you know what I come up with. Way to go Caine and Nirvan!

  83. If you didn’t tear up during the film, then for sure you will during the credits when he mentions how proud he is. Awesome! As a teacher, I am hopefully for more parent’s like Caine’s dad…what an amazing, creative, and hopeful child he is raising. Love!

  84. I keep watching this over & over!  Like everyone else, I commend each person associated with this film, especially the loving and supportive dad, the open-eyed and open-hearted filmmaker, and most of all the incredible young Caine!  (Plus, who else grooved on Juli Crockett’s terrific “Caine’s Arcade” song?  Great lyric, great vocals, great production!) 

    To see one child’s innovation inspire so much joy & imagination in so many others is like watching the sun rise, glowing with possibility and promise.  It can truly be said that Caine “thinks outside the box”! 

    “Caine’s Arcade” is worth at least a hundred times all the stuff I’ve watched in theaters or on TV in the last year–maybe in the last 10.  Watching “Caine’s Arcade” simply makes the world a better place in under a dozen minutes–and of how many things which clamor for our attention can we honestly say that?  I can only imagine, then, what else Caine, George, and Nirvan might do with the rest of their lives.  Maybe the best part is: they inspire us to imagine what we can do next, too.

    1. Thank you! Juli Crockett’s Caine’s Arcade Them song is on iTunes: all proceeds benefit the Caine’s Arcade Foundation to foster creativity in more kids like Caine. :)

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