Caine’s Arcade: Why stories with a big heart go a long way
“We came to play.”
If you haven’t seen “Caine’s Arcade” yet, you aren’t just a bit behind – you’re totally missing out.
When I first noticed the short film in my Facebook stream last night, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m always impatient with videos and hesitate to get myself involved in yet another video. Could it possibly be worth it?
The answer was an overwhelming yes. It turned out to be the most rewarding story I had seen in ages. Who knew an eleven-minute video about a 9-year-old and his cardboard arcade could be so good?
Caine’s love of arcades reminded me of my childhood. When I was a kid, my dad used to bring me along when he collected quarters from the arcade games he had scattered around at different restaurants and bars. The games had once belonged in an arcade my dad owned on the east end of town. The arcade closed in the 80′s, just like other arcades across the nation were forced out of business with the growing popularity of home gaming consoles. As the years went on, few restaurants were interested in the bulky and aging games; the games eventually took up space in our garage and became our vehicles of summertime entertainment. What had been my dad’s arcade on the east end of town became a distant memory, a space now occupied by a small church.
Although the arcade games I loved didn’t spit out tickets and didn’t come with prizes, it’s impossible to forget the rewarding feeling of playing an arcade game. The rush of playing, and especially winning – even if it was just to move ahead in the Highest Score records – was incredible and borderline addictive. Even if you didn’t win, you had still gotten a shot at winning – and it was still a ton of fun.
Needless to say, I wasn’t the only person who fell in love with his story. Millions of people have now heard about Caine and his arcade, including viewers of the NBC’s Nightly News and tens of thousands of Facebook users.
There are all kinds of reasons why this video went viral. Besides the sheer ingenuity exhibited for a 9-year-old, the insightful storytelling techniques by filmmaker Nirvan Mullick, and Caine’s entrepreneurial spirit and enthusiasm for his creations, the central point to all of this is one insurmountable quality: the big heart behind the film.
It’s certain that without the big heart Nirvan had to make Caine’s Arcade the focus of a short film, this story may never have been told. Yet it isn’t only Nirvan’s heart that makes this story shine. It’s the beautiful kindness and genuine joy in the hearts of the flash mob attendees. It’s the way Caine’s father, George, beams so brilliantly when he talks about his son. It’s how Caine puts painstaking detail and intense concentration into every one of his games. And it’s how those inspired by the short film have managed to put up nearly $133,000 (as of early morning on April 13th, 2012) towards Caine’s college fund – well over the original goal of $100,000.
This short film? It’s all about the big heart. And a big heart speaks to everyone.
Few stories with such a simple premise can motivate so many people to raise that magnitude of money for a kid they’ve never met, will probably never meet, and thus hardly know. But with the kind of heart that this short film packs into just eleven minutes, it’s irresistible. There are plenty of stories out there about exceptional kids; we’ve all heard about pre-teens who complete high school five years early or grade schoolers whose natural talents in sports or music rival the world’s finest athletes and instrumentalists. But it might just be that Caine’s story, so extraordinarily moving for coming from a relatively ordinary set of circumstances, has a bigger heart than a middle school Mensa member or a pint-sized professional pianist.
I don’t think it’s possible to watch this film without feeling something good in one way or another. Stories with a big heart appeal to almost everyone and don’t need to be perfect, over-the-top, or exceedingly impressive. They just have to speak to most basic of human emotions. The thing that moved me was that it reminded me of my childhood and made my heart swell with happiness that this bright kid in East L.A. has captivated so many people with such a simple mission: to have fun and play.
A story with a big heart will be the most memorable and victorious of narratives. It will be infectious. And it’ll come with a Fun Pass.