Parents know all too well what children can do with a little imagination and a cardboard box. One young man took his fascination for taking things apart and putting them back together, coupled it with his love of arcade games and the abundance of cardboard boxes available at his father's East Los Angeles auto parts shop, and created a now-famous cardboard arcade.
Caine's Arcade, as it's called, was founded in June 2011 when Caine spent his summer vacation at his dad's shop. It started with a basketball toss game and grew to include soccer -- played with plastic army men goalies -- a "claw", bowling and more.
So how much is it to play? For $1, Caine's business will give you four turns on any game. But wait, for $2, you can get a Fun Pass. A Fun Pass is worth 500 turns. No brainer, right?
"It's a great deal," the budding entreprenuer said in a video, which has since gone viral, about his project.
But just because Caine hand makes his Fun Passes, don't think you can put one by him with a forged one. He has calculators on every arcade game "for security" to validate Fun Passes. "You put the pin number in [found on the back of the Fun Pass] and push the checkmark button and a big number comes out. That's how you know if it's a real fun pass," Caine said.
When you score a point, Caine has even devised a way for your prize-winning tickets to come out like an honest-to-goodness professional arcade machine. Caine crawls into the back of the box and pushes the tickets through a slit.
With all this arcade infrastructure, you may be surprised Caine waited a long time before he got his first customer.
"Caine's always waiting out front and sitting on his little chair and trying to convince people to play, but there's not too much luck," Caine's father said, explaining that most of his business has switched to online resulting in fewer drop by customers. "But, he never gets discouraged. He's always sweeping up, dusting off the games, waiting for customers."
With that, it was a big deal -- huge -- when someone stopped by to be Caine's first customer and play in the arcade. More specifically, it was Nirvan Mullick who couldn't have been a better first customer. Naturally, he bought the fun pass, but he went on to do so much more.
Mullick wanted to create a short video on Caine's arcade, which lead to a scheme to invite everybody in Los Angeles to play the 9-year-old's arcade in a "surprise, flashmob style." Within an hour of creating the Facebook event for the surprise mob at Caine's arcade on Oct. 2, 2011, the local NBC affiliate had shown up to get the scoop.
When Caine spotted the flashmob, he smiled a steady smile and let out a surprisingly calm laugh for a man whose one customer turned into hundreds.
Watch the film:
In the just two days that Mullick's finished product has been posted on Vimeo, it has started the Caine's Arcade viral sensation all over again. Beverly Macy, a marketing professional and professor, wrote on the Huffington Post blog that while Caine's story is touching in and of itself, it also speaks volumes about the Web community and how it works:
The bigger picture is why discovery and amplificationare two of the most intriguing elements of social web. Yes, it's always fun to be out in the real world and just 'happen' across something you weren't expecting -- a recipe book, an antique chair, your favorite flowers in Spring, a puppy up for adoption.
Evidently, that's how Nirvan Mullick discovered Caine's Arcade -- he just happened upon it. What he did from there demonstrates the power of social media... the flashmob, Reddit, and the rest that the film chronicles.
Today the story is trending on Twitter and the video has gone viral. Caine's full story is at the Caine's Arcade website and donations are even being taken for a scholarship fund to benefit Caine's education.
So far, the scholarship fund set up for Caine has raised more than $79,000. If it's any indication how quickly that fund is growing, Forbes reported the wee hours of Wednesday morning that the fund had raised $57,000 at that point. Nearly 30,000 people like Caine's Arcade on Facebook at the time of this posting.
If you're in the East L.A. area and interested in checking out the arcade, find its weekend hours and location here.