Cain’s Arcade

I love this story of cardboard, dreams and joy.

Young Cain turns scraps into gold.

It’s a cardboard arcade in his dad’s auto parts store in East L.A.

I rank “Cain’s Arcade” #3 in The 11 Best Arcade Documentaries article I wrote.

Thx to Pat Flynn (Passive Income) for the tip on Cain’s.



Where to Watch Cain’s Arcade

Watch the doc for free on YouTube at (same as clicking the video above)


  • Genre: Children, Creativity
  • Release: 2012
  • Director: Nirvan Mullick
  • Duration: 11 minutes

My Favorite Parts (Includes Spoiler Alerts!)

  • Cain uses calculators on each game for security codes.
  • Real arcade game-like tickets come out of the boxes.
  • Cain’s Arcade gets only 1 customer, filmaker Nirvan Mullick. Nirvan can’t believe he’s been the only customer and uses Facebook to arrange a surprise flash mob on a Sunday afternoon.
  • Cain’s Arcade Rules/How to Play — Cain’s only real rules are that you need to buy either small yellow tokens ($1 gets you 4 turns of any game) or buy a “Fun Pass” which is $2 and gets you 500 turns (though you have to use them up in one month).
  • A friend then posts the event on HiddenLA (which has 200,000 fans). Then it hits the front page of Reddit.
  • Caine’s dad takes Caine away from the shop for some pizza while Nirvan organizes the growing mob of folks lining up to play his arcade. He brings Caine back and hundreds of people are lined up to play Caine’s Arcade! Caine wondered “is this real life or was I just dreaming”.Nirvan’s accidental discovery… a simple car door handle turned magical journey.
  • “Best arcade ever!” – Community member, tears in eyes.

A Cool Scene

NIRVAN: “You built all this?”

CAIN (nodding): “Every single game.”

NIRVAN (amazed): “How much for a turn?”

CAIN (grinning): “One dollar gets you two plays… and a fun pass.”

NIRVAN (handing over a dollar): “Deal. Let’s play.”

I hope you enjoy the doc!


After Cain’s Arcade was Released — After the doc was released, Cain experienced a bunch of notoriety, including:

  • Caine became the youngest speaker at both the USC Marshall School of Business and the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.
  • MIT invited Caine to a summer program; UCLA offered to design a course for him when he’s college-ready.
  • Journals like Forbes and Fast Company highlighted business lessons from Caine’s arcade, emphasizing his perseverance and optimism.
  • The arcade was showcased in San Francisco’s Exploratorium.
  • Caine ran the arcade on Saturdays for 18 months post-documentary
  • Caine “retired” from the arcade on his 11th birthday.
  • Local businesses and musicians created a street fair ambiance when the arcade was open.
  • After speaking at the 2013 Colorado Innovation Network Summit, Colorado State University offered Caine a full scholarship.
  • Nirvan established a college fund for Caine with a goal of $25,000.
  • The fund quickly surpassed targets, reaching $60,000 on day one and eventually exceeding $240,000.
  • With a grant from the Goldhirsh Foundation, Nirvan founded the Imagination Foundation, aiming to foster creativity in children.
  • The Imagination Foundation’s mission was solidified after the outpouring of donations to Caine’s college fund.
  • The foundation introduced a Global Cardboard Challenge, involving over 750,000 kids across 80 countries by 2017.
  • After releasing the film, Nirvan received photos and videos of cardboard games inspired by Caine’s Arcade, including one from actor-musician Jack Black.
  • An open-ended curriculum was developed to allow students to build creative projects.
  • In September 2012, Nirvan released “Caine’s Arcade 2” showing a montage of these inspired projects.
  • The Global Cardboard Challenge gained popularity, becoming an annual event with support from Mattress Firm.
  • Two years post-opening, Caine retired from his arcade to start a bicycle repair business.
  • The expanded its initiatives with the introduction of Imagination Chapters in 2014 and an Inventors Challenge in 2016.