Nirvan Mullick: Caine’s Arcade and the Power of Cardboard.
It all started with going to buy a door handle for my ‘96 Corolla. It was the last day of summer and I was in an industrial area of Los Angeles, where they sell used auto parts. I came across a random store, pulled in, and ended up meeting a nine-year-old boy named Caine who built a cardboard arcade using boxes from his dad’s store. He asked me if I wanted to play and if I’d be interested in buying a fun pass to his arcade. It was a two dollar pass that he had made which offered five hundred turns.I bought the fun pass, and the rest grew from there.
It really started with Caine. Playing his games and seeing what he had made was very inspiring to me. It reminded me of my own childhood and the things that I used to make. I kept thinking about his arcade and I went back and asked his father if I could make a short film about his son’s arcade. That’s when his dad told me that I had been Caine’s only customer, and I got to know more about how long Caine had been working on this. He spent the entire summer building his arcade and making it more functional and elaborate in preparation for customers, but he had yet to have any. The shop is in a very industrial area and they don’t get a lot of foot traffic, and his dad started doing most of his business on Ebay selling auto parts, so Caine didn’t really have a chance to have any customers for his arcade. The few people that did come by just bought their auto parts and left.
We crafted a plan to surprise Caine with customers. We organized a flash mob just to make his day. We put together a flash mob online, and invited anybody in Los Angeles to come out and make Caine’s day and surprise him. Hundreds of people came out. So this little idea—this little Facebook invite—went kind of mini-viral. It made the front page of Reddit, and was featured on Hidden LA, which had about 230,000 Facebook fans at the time. Hundreds of people came out and we surprised Caine. That was the heart of the short film that I made. When I posted the film I invited people to chip in and try to raise a scholarship fund for Caine. The initial goal was a twenty-five thousand dollar scholarship fund. The first first day the film was posted, it got over a million views, raised over sixty thousand dollars for his scholarship, and just took off.
On October 6th, 2012, the one year anniversary of the flash mob to make Caine’s day, we had a global day of play where people could find cardboard challenge events around the world and go out to support the kids in their community. That was super fun and will be an annual event that we do through the Imagination Foundation. Every first weekend ofOctober, people will be able to go and play at these events. People can sign up to do these events on the Imagination Foundation website. Other goals are for kids in underserved communities: giving kids the space to create, and to develop a more robust web platform that connects maker-kids with adults, teachers, parents. We want to create more community around making and also celebrate and share more stories of creative kids around the world who are doing awesome things like Caine.
Another thing we are moving towards, and are really excited about, is promoting and fostering social entrepreneurship at a young age. There are so many kids who have been using these cardboard creations to make little businesses, and raise money for different causes.
You always hear statistics about kids when they’re young. They want to grow up to be artists, they want to grow up to be all these big things, but once they’re in high school they’ve become way more practical just because those engaging and inspirational ideas get beaten out of them by the reality of life. I think we need to take a close look at the education system that we have in place, and think about the kinds of adults we’re making in that system, and what makes sense in the new reality of our world.