The 9-Year-Old Founder of Caine's Arcade Tells Us What It's Like to Be the Coolest Kid in America

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Caine Monroy, 9-year-old inventor of Caine's Arcade, showing off his wares and prizes (photo by LAist).
LAist took a trip out to Caine's Arcade in Boyle Heights to interview 9-year-old cardboard arcade creator and budding entrepreneur, Caine Monroy. He is only in elementary school, but Caine is already a staunch businessman that knows how to hustle customers and design challenging games. Despite the humblest of construction materials, the cardboard and tape games at Caine's Arcade are addictive and tough to beat. While shooting goals through a playing field of little green toy soldiers with the afternoon rush of his dad's auto parts store buzzing around him he discussed school, playing games, fame, fortune, business ethos and happiness. Caine gave LAist a tour of all of his arcade games...after completing his homework, of course.

Tell us about yourself.
Caine Monroy
: My name is Caine. I'm nine years old. I'm in fourth grade. I like school. This is my arcade.

How does it feel to be the #1 coolest kid in America?
CM:
Really cool.

How do you deal with all of your newfound fame?
CM:
Like it is pretty hard because I have to meet a lot of people here at my arcade and talk to a lot of people. And everyone wants to take my picture all of the time now.

What inspired you to construct this cardboard arcade?
CM:
I didn't really want to make it at first. I just wanted to own my own arcade. I had to build my own games to get my own arcade.

You have an elaborate security system for your games. Has anyone ever tried to swindle you with a fake Caine's Arcade Fun Pass?
CM:
No. It is just a precaution.

What kind of maintenance do you have to do to your games to keep them in top condition?
CM:
I have to make them work good, so like I have to come here every day to make sure that they are working good and that they don't need any repairs. I fix them with tape and stuff.

How do you handle the large crowds that come to play your games?
CM:
People help me. Right now, I've got three employees. Nirvan's family are kind of like my employees. But today, two of them didn't show up to work. I stand them behind the games so they can watch over people when they play. (eds note: Nirvan is the Caine's Arcade filmmaker).

What is the best game in Caine's Arcade?
CM:
Definitely skeeball because it is a really good, easy game that everybody can play. Skeeball was the hardest game for me design.

Do you have plans to expand your arcade or build new games?
CM:
No. It is perfect right now.

What is the secret to your success?
CM:
I like being a businessman. It takes hard work to be successful. I guess if you get a good idea, just do it and work hard and don't think about it too much. With my arcade, I was just like telling myself "Just do it!"

What sets you apart from other kids your age?
CM:
I don't know. Hmmm...I really don't know. I just really like building cool stuff.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by all of the attention that you are getting?
CM:
No! I want people to be here and playing my games every single day. I want people here playing the games every single day no matter what. And I have my employees to help me out.

Caine's Arcade seems to make people feel very happy.
CM:
I never thought about that. That is really, really cool! I want to make people feel nice. That is really good that I am making people happy.

Do your parents have any rules for you about how much time you're allowed to spend in your arcade?
CM
: (Shaking head dismissively.) No, no, no, no, no... you don't have to worry about that question. My dad is cool. He lets me build ANYTHING!

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Pretend check made out of cardboard at Caine's Arcade (photo by LAist)

You raised tons of money for your scholarship fund. Where do you want to go to school and what do you want to study?
CM:
I want to go to UCLA and study to be someone who invents games. I want to invent games when I grow up. I'm probably going to stay in school until I'm 29 so I can learn how to invent the best games.

What is the Caine's Arcade Foundation?
CM
: I don't know a lot about that but I know that people are donating money so that other kids will get to go to college too!

There is an article on Forbes.com that predicts that you will be a billionaire 30 years from now. What do you think about that?
CM
: Yeah! That is true. Definitely.

What other things do you like to do other than run a cardboard arcade?
CM
: (He throws his arms up in the air excitedly.) Play LEGOS!

Do you think that you have already achieved the American Dream of being your own boss?
CM
: Yes, I do...umm, but I don't know what the American Dream is. I never heard of it before. Are you going to buy a Fun Pass from me now?

Directions and hours to Caine's Arcade are available online.