Caine's Arcade - A Study of Unstructured Play

Posted on Sunday, April 15, 2012 at 2:48 PM

Caine is a 9-year-old boy. His father runs an auto parts store in East L.A. Caine spent the summer at his dad’s store and constructed his own arcade, made with cardboard boxes from the auto part deliveries.

Caine didn’t get any business, as there was very little street traffic. One day, Nirvan walked in, saw the arcade, bought a “fun pass” and decided to make a documentary. It went viral. It was posted on Vimeo on April 8th and You Tube on April 9th. It’s had nearly 2 million views. They started a scholarship fund that collected $200,000 in a few days.

What happened?

First, Caine was left to fill his time how he chose. His dad was working at the desk nearby and Caine had no structured activities or projects to take up his time. He was free. Both his reasoning skills and his creativity had time to bloom. He was able to think through processes – the format of arcade games, how the tickets come out and the brilliant innovation of the security check for his “fun pass.”

Nirvan, Caine’s first customer and the man who created the flash mob and short film about his arcade, claims in the film, “This kid’s a genius.” Clever, yes, but is Caine much different than most 9-year-olds out there?

And how did this short film get 2 million views in a week? This story touches something within each one of us. We all know, deep down in our hearts that human creativity and potential are limitless. Too often, that potential remains unrealized in both our children and ourselves. To see what Caine has done with stacks of empty boxes, and what Nirvan has done with a camera resonates because we see in this story our own creativity and potential if left to play.

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