8 years ago, there was a YouTube video about Caine's Arcade. Remember that? Ever since then, I've wanted to host an arcade program at the library, using all our delivery boxes and regular office supplies.
All these years, I was never able to make that happen at the library, but working from home with a bored child created the perfect situation to finally make this dream a reality.
Here's how we did it:
STEP 1 - Collect Recycling
Collecting our recycling became a time to brainstorm as well. Should we throw this away? What could we use this for? Anything that sparked an idea was set aside. When the pile took over too much space, we knew it was time to get started. Cardboard boxes, egg cartons, toilet paper rolls, and plastic bottles were our main materials.
STEP 2 - Gather art supplies and building tools from all over the house.
As you can see from the pictures above, my kid likes to use bright colorful markers and stickers to decorate. If you don't have many art supplies at home, you can keep it simple. You will at least need to find a marker, pen or other way to label points, if points are a part of your game. Otherwise be ready to do a lot of explaining when you run your game.
No seriously, watch it. Before we watched the YouTube video it was just a fun idea. Caine's enthusiasm was so infectious, that my own kid wanted to start making stuff right away! What I love about the story of Caine's Arcade is he just uses what is available to him - empty boxes from his dad's shop, packing tape, his own toys.
STEP 4 - MAKE STUFF!
You can see our games are not fancy or professional in any way, but they were fun to make and invent rules for. Almost anything can be a game with the right rules . . . Speaking of rules, that leads us to Step 5.
STEP 5 - Invent rules and playtest.
This is a key part of designing any kind of game. Come up with rules, test your game by playing. Change what doesn't work. Keep what does. Add new rules as you see fit. Repeat. We decided that to stay in line with social distancing all of our arcade games would involve throwing 5 pennies (or a ball, that can be wiped down), from far away. We chose pennies, because of the following reasons: 1 - We had a lot for some reason, so if we lost them, it would be okay. 2 - We could wash them beforehand. 3 - The pennies easily fit in the materials we had!
STEP 6 - Gather unwanted toys, books or knick knacks to use as prizes.
All those little kid's meal toys are perfect for this kind of thing. Two of our games involved winning a prize outright, but most had a ticket system. 10 pts = 1 ticket. We had some prizes that were 2 for 1 ticket, 1 for 2 tickets, 1 for 5 tickets, and our grand prizes were 1 for 10 tickets. You don't have to get this complicated. We're just hella extra.
Psssst! Parents! This is a good way to get your kid to get rid of all those items they never use.
Safely Inviting Others to Play: Things to Think About
If you are fortunate enough to have a big family, you can have an arcade day with each other! We have one child. Our recent play dates have been shaped by social distancing. They mainly involve Face Time, Zoom dates, bike rides, or shouting at our neighbor friends from the sidewalk as the stay near their porch. All of our in-person interactions with people from other households happen outdoors and with masks on. We have several neighbor friends that we have sidewalk play dates with. We know each other very well, and are all on the same page when it comes to staying a safe distance away, wearing masks, etc. We also know that they practice social distancing with others. If you have family or friends that you feel safe with, those are the ideal people to invite over for something like this. People you know and trust.
Regarding prizes: We knew we were inviting neighbors. Since we live in different households, we quarantined our prizes in our shed for a week to be safe, as Covid does not survive on plastic or cardboard past 72 hours. We had hand sanitizer near our prize area, and instructed players to point at the prizes they wanted. Clorox wipes were also on hand, if someone wanted to be super safe and wipe down their prize.
When inviting others you will definitely need to figure out logistics of set-up. We made signs with rules for our games. We also had signs telling people to wear masks, stay 6 ft. apart, and use hand sanitizer before playing (and we reminded people to use the hand sanitizer throughout their time at the arcade). Even if you are inviting people you know, if you do this near the sidewalk, you may have a curious little passerby that would like to play. Having assigned monitors (we had 3 grownups tasked with supervising certain stations), as well as established rules, and signs in place make it easy to incorporate a newcomer to join in on the fun.
If this encourages you to make your own arcade, or if you have other creative ways to play with friends, please email pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org OR tag us using #OPLSummer
How do you play from far away?