The Boy Who Stole America’s Hearts With a Cardboard Arcade

Caine and his Cardboard Arcade

Bored last summer, hanging around his dad’s East LA auto parts store, Caine Monroy decided to make his own entertainment. He built an elaborate cardboard-and-tape arcade, complete with a crane machine, basketball game, and tickets to win prizes. Caine’s story is evidence that the DIY, entrepreneurial spirit is not dead—cable television and video games have not killed it.

Caine waited patiently for customers every Saturday, sitting in his blue camp chair, wearing his Caine’s Arcade t-shirt. For a long time, no one came. Then one day, a young filmmaker named Nirvan happened by Caine’s dad’s auto parts store, looking for a part for his car. Caine invited him to play—$1 for 2 turns, $2 for a 500-turn Fun Pass. Nirvan opted for the Fun Pass and spent a while playing games and talking with Caine.

Nirvan wanted the world to be as impressed by Caine’s creativity and dedication as he was. So, like any good member of the Net Generation, he turned to the power of the interwebs: he organized a flashmob at Caine’s Arcade, filmed the whole story, and put the video up online (below). Within a day of the video’s posting, they raised over $60,000 for Caine’s scholarship fund and quickly set up a foundation, so donated money could help other kids. Caine is thrilled to have regular customers at his arcade.

Nirvan’s video is charming, and Caine is an adorable underdog. But I like the story for another reason, too: when Caine wanted a crane machine, his dad told him to build one himself. Every time Caine wants to add a “machine” to the arcade, he has to reverse engineer it. I talk to a lot of repair folks, and almost every repair story I hear starts the same way. People usually say something like, “I always loved taking things apart as a kid and figuring out on my own how stuff works.”

That’s just what Caine has done, and it’s exciting to see the world applauding his DIY spirit.