Caine Monroy is an incredible kid. A 9 year-old boy from Los Angeles, Caine was forced to spend much of his summer vacation at his father’s used auto parts store. While you or I probably would have spent most of the time whining about being bored, Caine made the best of it. Caine had grown up loving arcade-style video games, so with all the down time he had combined with all the cardboard boxes in the back room of his dad’s store, Caine built his own arcade.
What started out as a small basketball goal taped to a cardboard box evolved into a full-blown multi-game cardboard arcade, complete with a claw machine, all handmade by Caine. Caine has a shirt that says “staff” on it, and a calculator taped to the front of each game for added realism. He will even climb into the back of the boxes and push tickets out through a slit in the front of the game when the player does well. Caine sells four-game passes for a dollar each, or you can buy a “Fun Pass,” which includes 500 plays, for two dollars.
But the arcade is just one side of this story. It just so happened that Caine’s one and only customer was Nirvan Mullick, a filmmaker interested in social change. Nirvan took a special interest in Caine, and approached Caine’s dad about making a short film about Caine’s arcade. After he got permission, Nirvan then began organizing a flash mob at the arcade. In case you don’t know, a flash mob is basically when a bunch of random people convene in a public place and perform a coordinated action that might seem pretty unusual. The goal of this flash mob was just to have huge amount of people show up and play Caine’s cardboard arcade games.
So Nirvan went about publicizing the event, creating a Facebook page and Twitter account for Caine’s arcade. Using all of the digital resources he had, Nirvan gathered hundreds of people who went to the arcade and surprised Caine with their presence. Needless to say the surprise worked, and gave Caine an experience he will surely never forget.
Nirvan filmed the whole event. He interviewed Caine and his dad about the arcade and their experiences with the event, and made a short film. The original flash mob took place October 2, 2011, but the final HD video was just released online this past Monday, April 9, 2012. In the three days since the video was posted, it has over one million views, and “Caine’s Arcade” has been one of the trending topics on Twitter. Caine’s Arcade has over 30,000 “likes” on Facebook, and over 2,000 followers on Twitter. A website (www.cainesarcade.com) was also created, on which you can read about Caine, watch the video, and even donate to a scholarship fund created for Caine so that he can go to college someday. As of today, Thursday April 12, 2012, over $113,000 has been raised, surpassing the original goal of $100,000 and still climbing.
This is digital storytelling at its finest. What started out as a child just trying to pass the time stuck at work with his dad has turned into a national phenomenon, and given a boy who might not have had it the opportunity to go to college. It can do some serious good in the world. It is a growing method of communication, and can be vastly influential. Caine’s arcade is just one of many similar stories out there on the web, so keep your eyes open and help out when you find a good cause like Caine Monroy.