In summer of 2011, nine-year old Caine Monroy was twiddling his thumbs at his father's auto parts shop in Los Angeles, wondering what to do over the long summer break, when he suddenly hit upon a brilliant idea - Why not build a gaming arcade?
The fact that he had no money for supplies or the expertise to build one, did not seem to deter the young boy. He did after all have an almost unlimited supply of cardboard boxes and tape at his disposal and, given that he rarely passed by a gaming arcade without playing a game or two, he knew exactly what to do.
Cain's first arcade game was quite basic - A small basketball hoop stuck to a box. But it worked and the young boy was hooked, so much so, that even after the summer break was over, he continued working on the arcade, every weekend. Not surprisingly, his cardboard games became increasingly sophisticated and the imaginative boy even figured out how to get the 'machines' to dispense prizes - He simply crawled inside them and slipped one out.
The only problem? Thanks to its location in the industrial part of East Los Angeles, there was no foot traffic, which meant that the young boy never had any customers. But that did not discourage him. Caine's Gaming Arcade remained open for business every single weekend!
His patience finally paid off when a customer looking for a door handle came into his father's store and decided to check out the arcade located in the adjacent room. He loved it so much that he played every game the young boy had to offer, for a bargain price of $2.00 USD. As luck would have it, he was no ordinary customer, but award winning filmmaker, Nirvan Mullick.
He was so impressed with young boy's ingenuity that he decided to make a short film about Cain's Arcade, which is when he discovered, that he had been Cain's one and only customer. Determined to change that he organized an arcade flash mob via his Facebook page. While Cain's father was made aware, the young boy had no idea. So you can only imagine his surprise when he opened shop on October 28th, 2011, to find not one or two, but hundreds of people lined outside, raring to come in.
That, was only the beginning of young boy's road to fame. On April 9th, 2012, Mullick posted the 'Caines Arcade' video on Youtube - Not only did it become an instant viral sensation earning over one million views on just the first day, but it has also helped Mullick raise $230,000 USD towards a scholarship fund for Caine.
Not only that, the film inspired so many kids and educators across the globe that Los Angeles based Goldhirsh Foundation decided to give a grant to set up the Imagination Foundation. Established to find, foster and fund creativity and entrepreneurship in kids, it now boasts a membership of 100 schools in nine countries in its School Pilot program.
It has also helped organize over 270 Global Cardboard Challenge events in 41 countries, all of which culminated in a Global Day of Play on October 6th 2012 - almost exactly a year after Cain's flash mob surprise. And they are not done yet. For this year's Global Day of Play challenge scheduled for October 5th 2013, the foundation has set a lofty goal of attracting one million kids from 70 countries! So be sure to take up the fun challenge and help them fulfill their dream.
Cain meanwhile, has enjoyed tremendous popularity with hundreds of people flocking to see and play at his arcade each week. But the now 11 year-old, who has been the subject of many interviews and even a speaker at the Ted Teen talk, is ready to move on and pursue his next dream - A bicycle shop. So on August 3rd, the young boy let in eager customers for one last time, before shutting down the summer project that he even in his wildest dreams would have never believed would lead to a global movement.
The good news is that thanks to Toms Shoes, his cardboard games will be preserved and transform into a traveling arcade - One that will hopefully inspire more kids to use their imagination and creativity! As Cain succinctly puts it 'Just believe in yourself'.
Resources: Cain's Arcade.com