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Danny Peña interview: Creating a career talking about video games

By | 15/09/2022

Danny Peña interview: Creating a career talking about video games

Danny Loves Video Games is available on Amazon.com.

Danny Loves Video Games is available on Amazon.com.

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Danny Peña has one of those fairy-tale stories that the video game manufacture is so skillful at creating. He grew up in a tough neighborhood in the Bronx, the son of divorced parents, as well equally the Dominican Commonwealth.

One day, his grandmother bought him a video game organization, and it inverse his life. He played also many games growing upwards. His parents worried about his studies and what he was going to do with his life. But similar then many creators and influencers, Peña decided to create his own chore. He started with DJ work and and then migrated to this new thing called podcasting.

In 2005, he started Gamertag Radio with his blood brother and was joined later by Peter Toledo and Parris Lilly. The audience grew and now his podcasts take been downloaded more than 14 1000000 times. He showed upward at the Xbox launch in 2001 and played a game with Neb Gates.

He has had a chance to interview industry luminaries such as Microsoft gaming boss Phil Spencer and Reggie Fils-Aime (erstwhile CEO of Nintendo of America). He co-emceed our GamesBeat Summit 2022 outcome last April and he interviewed Fils-Aime about his own post-Nintendo book.

Now Peña’southward inspirational story is the bailiwick of a cocky-published children’s book,
Danny Loves Video Games, created by 2 Quality Kids, a children’s book company run by Peña’south cousin and his married woman, Mr. Luna, and Mrs. Ani. It’s out today. I’ve seen Peña’due south success abound over the years and watched him get an inspiration to diverse people breaking into gaming. He is notwithstanding doing Gamertag Radio and working at G4. We talked well-nigh the book and his life.

Here’due south an edited transcript of our interview.

Danny Pena started Gamertag Radio in xxx.
Danny Peña started Gamertag Radio in 2005.

GamesBeat: Yous must be very proud to become this volume out.

Danny Peña:
Yes, I’chiliad excited. It’s been a passion project for me and my cousin. It’due south coming out adjacent calendar week.

GamesBeat: Your cousin has a children’s book label?

Peña: Right. It’s called 2qualitykids. It’s him and his wife. They’ve been doing it for two years or so. He’south the one who came to me with the idea. He wanted to practise a book based on my life, and I thought that would be neat. Let’s talk about it. He asked me a couple questions, I answered, and they came back with some samples of the book a couple months after. I loved the concept.

GamesBeat: It’s interesting that y’all can summarize your life in perchance xx sentences or so.

Peña: The reason why I wanted to practise this — it’s two things. 1 is for parents, to tell them not to shut down their kids’ dreams. My dad, dorsum when I was growing up, he just didn’t go it. To this twenty-four hours he doesn’t really understand what I do. He’south proud, simply at the time, it was 1 of those cases where he but needed to see results to empathize and telephone call it successful. My mom was more than agreement. Just do it.

When I was a child, I was living in the Dominican Democracy. Mom knew I was playing a lot, but I always wanted to create a business organization out of video games. I told her, “Hey, mom, I take a agglomeration of Super Nintendos and a couple of Sega Genesis consoles. Would it be possible to hire a infinite so I could accuse my friends around the block, or anyone who wants to play?” I would charge for 15 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour. Some people, if I knew them, I’d rent them games. I was in my early teens.

An entertainer at four years old.
An entertainer at four years quondam.

GamesBeat: Did that really piece of work out for you?

Peña: Oh, yeah. I made pretty expert money. I bought a motorbike. But the second reason why I wanted to do the volume was to show kids that dreams practice come up truthful. It doesn’t have to be video games. But y’all should go for it. This is the only book that I know of based on the true story of a content creator from the gaming side. My goal is to show to kids that anything is possible.

GamesBeat: Not many people could say, before about a decade agone, that they fabricated money playing games or their career was about playing games. That’southward one thing that’s a theme for us in our stories and events. This idea that yous tin can get paid for beingness passionate about something that you enjoy, that’southward pure entertainment, and that can plough into a career. Information technology’s still foreign to a lot of people that something fun can be a job.

Peña: When I was a kid, I read a lot of game magazines — EGM, GamePro. I’d see pictures of E3 and all the events. They got admission to early copies of games. I always wanted to be office of that. Non necessarily as a journalist, merely I was always into radio and TV. I was learning on my own. My dad was a DJ, and so I would mess effectually with his equipment. At the time I would use a radio with a congenital-in mic and record whatever was in the groundwork. If the Tv was on I could record it, and at nighttime I’d mind to it and moving picture my own scene based on the recording.

When I was living in Miami I’d get invited to a lot of hip-hop radio shows. DJs wanted me to co-host. I learned from that. But in 1998 — I was in my early 20s at the time — was when I found out well-nigh this visitor called Sudo. I don’t know if you lot retrieve that. I went to a friend’south house and I was using his computer. He had a 56K modem. I saw this network, Sudo, where they had many different shows with video or audio. I was watching a hip-hop show where they interviewed one of my favorite artists. I thought that was pretty absurd. I didn’t realize people could simply practise this online.

That’s when I wanted to start my own radio bear witness. But at the fourth dimension I had no PC. It was still then expensive just to stream through RealPlayer, back in the early days. Then I discovered MP3.com, though. Information technology was designed for music artists, but I figured out a mode to upload my content there. For every person who listened to you lot, you could go paid on MP3.com. I put upward my content with that gratis hosting and a lot of people started listening to my show. My get-go check was about 500 bucks. That was really cool.

Danny Loves Video Games is available on Amazon.

GamesBeat: Would you consider that the kickoff, then?

Peña: Yeah, that was the start for me every bit a content creator in internet radio. But podcasting started later, effectually September 2004. I launched Gamertag Radio in Feb 2005. There were no applications like iTunes, though. We had to depend on a third party application that the community was creating. You lot’d become the new episode, but yous had to get information technology through your PC.

I retrieve I got invited to Xbox Unleashed, a couple of weeks earlier the launch. I got hands-on. The crazy part near that consequence, I showed upwardly with a tape recorder and a video camera, considering I wanted to create content. But I besides wanted to compete, because they were giving away free trips to Cancun, giving away a car and everything. So I turned up to compete for 48 hours, and at the same time I got a media pass, because I went to them and said, “Hey, I take a radio show, I’d love to interview the team.”

At the terminate of the event I didn’t win, but I got a lot of content out of it. They were giving away consoles, though, to people who were there for 48 hours. They saw my badge and thought I was just a announcer. I said, “No, no, I’m competing! I take proof!” I showed them my video recording and then they said, “Okay, put him on the list.” They sent me an Xbox early.

When I got the console, Xbox called me and told me they wanted me to go to the launch result in New York, at the Times Square Toys R Us. I remember information technology, to this twenty-four hour period. Beyond the street there was the WWF restaurant. But when I went to the Toys R Us result they had tons of security. I wondered why they had so many people at that place. And then when I got in they said, “Oh, Danny, we want you to play against Beak Gates and give some feedback to the media near the console.” Of course, I’1000 immature, I’grand excited. We played Fusion Frenzy. There’s pictures of it online.

Right after that, I merely got inspired to create Gamertag Radio. I launched it in February of 2005. Just that year is when iTunes first added podcasts. Information technology was around July of 2005.

GamesBeat: It’s besides bad yous didn’t get to give a lot of this kind of detail in your volume. Maybe that’south for the loftier school version?

Peña: Yeah, yeah. This was more almost keeping information technology simple for young kids. You can have your dreams. Annihilation is possible. Show them that I’k a huge fan of games, starting from the arcades. Getting my Atari 2600 for the kickoff fourth dimension. Creating Gamertag Radio. Simply I desire to exercise a series in the future.

I’g releasing this on September fifteen, in Hispanic heritage calendar month. I’g also trying to become more Latinos into the game manufacture. When I started, I’d go to events and exist the simply person of color at that place. At present things take been getting a lot better. But back in the day I was the just one. That’s another thing I’ve been trying to do, just to change the mindset of other Latinos, peculiarly the older generation. From the industry side, it’s all about entertainment, media, musicians, sports. I desire to show that in that location is a path to gaming besides.

GamesBeat: Was in that location a certain bespeak where you felt like you were going to make it, as opposed to thinking this was a gamble that might not pay off?

Peña: It was a crazy experience, only I’ll requite you a perfect example from when I launched GTR. That yr I went to E3 for the first fourth dimension. I’d never been there. I didn’t have connections with game companies. I had no appointments. I created a press kit with my blood brother. I put downward all the coin I had to impress that up with a CD, pictures, bio, everything in this binder. When I went to E3 I gave that to every single game visitor, and I said, “Nosotros accept a podcast.” A lot of people looked at me weird, similar, “What’s a podcast?” They ignored me, never gave me a chance. I think Xbox was the only ane that gave me an opportunity to see the team, to interview people. That was the year 360 was coming out, so they had a lot of events going on.

Podcasting before podcasting.

But besides them, nobody else gave me a take chances. I went home to Miami feeling super discouraged. Correct afterward, though, that’s when Steve Jobs announced they were adding podcasts to iTunes. All of a sudden I was getting all these calls from game companies. Now they knew what was going on. At present they knew nearly podcasts. A year later that I was getting interviews left and right at E3. Fifty-fifty at home I was getting opportunities to nourish events or interview people remotely.

There were moments where I felt like this was looking really good. Merely even in the years after there were times when it seemed similar it might not work out. I was in a really dark identify around 2018. I felt like things but weren’t going to work. Opportunities were going away. Then the pandemic happened. That was a little tricky. I was living in New York, and all of a sudden I started getting a lot of calls from game companies. Everybody was at dwelling, so it was a lot easier for me to just create content with them. And the past few years, 2020 until at present, things have been incredible for me. I never would have idea I’d be involved in doing a book. The podcast is still doing dandy. I did some gigs for Telemundo. I got to interview Reggie, which was a lot of fun. It took me x years to become that interview. I got Phil Spencer on the thousandth episode. That was amazing. Keanu Reeves. There’s been a lot going on. At present I’m feeling ameliorate than ever. I only recently bought a house. My wife and I got married. Information technology’s been great.

I’d been trying to get Reggie on the podcast for a decade. Y’all know how Nintendo is. “Nope.” Every year. I was really cool with the PR people there and I’d pitch dissimilar ideas, but Nintendo declined everything. “Nope.” The way I finally got Reggie, it was right subsequently the thousandth episode where I had Phil Spencer. Once more, you lot manifest these things. I tweeted, “One day I’d like to interview Reggie.” And then Reggie replied, “We should make that happen.” It took some other year after that, so make information technology 11 years.

I tell this to creators. You never know who’s listening and you never know who’s reading. Be smart about what y’all post online. You lot don’t desire to exist negative. It’ll go around. The industry is so pocket-size.

But once I recorded the podcast with Reggie — I was asking him more personal questions. What was it like being up in New York? Are you going to work on a book? He gave me the heads up in accelerate that he was working on the volume. He gave a kind of sneak peek on the podcast. Once that was done and I shared it–he really enjoyed the conversation. And the remainder is history.

Making it big time in New York.

GamesBeat: Talking most Gamertag Radio itself, was in that location an arc to it as far equally how it became popular? Were Peter and Parris always on it with you?

Peña: I started it with my blood brother. Merely Peter and Parris take been with me for more than a decade. I met Parris first in 2006. He saw a video where I was featured at an consequence with EA and Xbox. He saw that video and he was inspired to do a podcast too. He hit me upwards and he helped him out, gave him some tips. He started his own bear witness, then years afterward joined GTR. With Pete, I met him because of his wife. She and I used to work together at the Discovery Channel in Miami. She said, “My swain is really into games!” He came to my firm and we became really close after that.

GamesBeat: Are there particular things in the book that you felt similar you had to have in that pocket-sized number of pages?

Peña: A few things. One was showing when my grandmother bought me my Atari 2600. That was a very of import time in my life when I was a kid. She didn’t know anything about games. She passed abroad a long time ago. Just at the time — 1984, 1985 — she bought three 2600s, one for me and the others for my other cousins. I got Defender and Pac-Man, a couple of games. Having that panel at my house, it was awesome. It was life-irresolute for me. I wanted to show that. A gift can completely modify a kid’s life, and that’southward what happened to me. I felt information technology was of import to show that about my grandmother.

I likewise wanted to testify my dad saying, “Hey, games don’t pay the bills.” That type of thing. Him beingness worried that I was playing a lot, while I knew what I wanted to do, knew that was my passion. I felt like that was also important. I wanted to show that to other parents, and testify the success I have now, where I’1000 at. I know I couldn’t really fit everything in at that place. I take a long history with games and podcasting. Simply I hope in the future I can do more different stories, more than about me getting into podcasting and doing interviews. I accept and then many things I want to share.

GamesBeat: It does feel like you grew upwardly at the right time for when podcasting came into being, when content creation became an opportunity. A new career emerged and you jumped on information technology. You had all this feel past the time information technology became much more viable.

Peña: Definitely. When I started, I didn’t have a mentor or anything similar that. I had to acquire everything on my own. The technology was dissimilar back then. I didn’t have any equipment. I just had a tape recorder connected to a estimator. Anything I had on the cassette, I pressed play and recorded that on the calculator. It was all in real fourth dimension. That was the only mode. If I wanted to edit anything I had to do it on the cassette.

Fast forwards to 2005 when I launched GTR, I was using the Halo 2 lobby equally the hub for me to do interviews. Everybody had Halo, so we would meet up in the anteroom and people could join. I’d record the audio from at that place. The quality was terrible. But I managed to create a lot of content like that. The applied science is then much improve at present. Information technology’s so much easier to upload and create content. But thank God I went through that experience, because that helped me to get a ameliorate creator.

Danny Peña has an inspiring story.

GamesBeat: Part of the lesson is that yous had to stay on the edge of engineering.

Peña: Yeah, big fourth dimension. Back then, in podcasting, for me and for a lot of others, we had to update our RSS feeds manually. It wasn’t the mode it is at present, where a website or a host would simply take your content and create that RSS feed and update information technology all for yous. Back so we had to write everything on our own. Information technology would accept forever.

GamesBeat: And that part of the lesson is that in that location’south a lot of hard work hither. Information technology’south not just being lucky or being at the correct fourth dimension.

Peña: Everything takes time, too. At that place are a lot of creators, and a lot of them, I feel like they want to encounter success so speedily. It takes time. It’due south good to pay your ante. Networking and getting to know people personally at events, meeting them face to face, that’s something that helped me back and then. In the early days I couldn’t attend a lot of events, but if I could go to an consequence in Miami–I’d but show up and pass out flyers to let people know. “I have a radio show, check it out.” I never used the word “podcast.” Then they’d say, “Oh, I need an iPod?” I always just chosen it internet radio. But coming together people face to face up helped me so much. It helped me get meliorate as a creator. I learned to deport conversations. I was very shy as a child. But after a while that went away, because I was being really active in doing this stuff.

GamesBeat: How difficult was information technology growing upwardly where yous did? Did you ever feel like your family unit was poorer than a lot of others?

Peña: My dad, he lived in the projects in New York City. My mom was a unmarried parent. My parents divorced when I was five or so. I was always visiting dorsum and along. My dad lived in the Bronx and my mom lived in Manhattan. Information technology was hard. Mom couldn’t beget the latest games, obviously. Past the fourth dimension I was in my teens, I wanted to get a computer, and I couldn’t afford it. That was tough. When I went to college, that was when I finally got one, with my educatee loans.

It wasn’t easy for me. But I’g glad that I experienced that, because it helped me to appreciate life. The struggles that my mom and my dad went through to come to this country. I’grand starting time generation in my family. I besides lived in the Dominican Republic for a while, so I got to see how it is over there too. I’m thankful for everything that my family has done. But I’thousand glad I went through all that. It’south an center-opener. Here, a lot of people–we’re spoiled. We always have electricity. Nosotros always have internet. Information technology’s practiced to feel what happens if you don’t have that kind of money, if you don’t have the connections or whatever information technology is. It helped me become a improve person.

GamesBeat: I feel like that’s a big function of the high school version of your book.

Peña: Oh, definitely. I want to practice way more with the books, for sure. At that place’s so much I want to talk nearly. But I felt good near this story for kids. You lot see me growing upwards, working hard, getting that accolade. Getting inducted into the Hall of Fame there, the first Latino–it was the kickoff group that was inducted, and then you had me, Adam Back-scratch and so on.

GamesBeat: And your wife is in the same business organization?

Peña: She used to piece of work at Xbox equally part of the marketing team. She worked on Halo five. Her last game was–not Life is Foreign, but the Life is Strange developer. Tell Me Why! She worked on that game. That was her last game before she moved to California. We met during the pandemic. Afterwards that, I started living hither. She used to work at G4, and so I moved to working at G4 in October of last yr, for the relaunch. I’m still there.

I’d never lived in Los Angeles, and she’d never lived here. She used to alive in Seattle. It was life-irresolute for me to come here. I’ve been very successful ever since I moved hither. It provides much easier access for me to work with a lot of people.

Danny Peña interviews Reggie Fils-Aime at GamesBeat Superlative 2022.

GamesBeat: I notice that yous’ve gone to at least one classroom to talk to kids directly. Have yous done a lot of that?

Peña: No, I’m actually doing that next week. My cousin’s wife is a teacher. Like I mentioned, the publishing company is called 2qualitykids. The author is Mr. Luna, and that’south my cousin’southward wife, the teacher. She read the book to her students back in July and they loved information technology. For me, next week is going to exist my first fourth dimension seeing people, getting the book, signing it and reading it. We’ll exist doing a release event. We’ll meet a lot of the parents of the kids there at the public library in Miami.

GamesBeat: You take to practice a lot of legwork to get something like this off the footing.

Peña: This is all self-publishing. Nosotros do everything through Amazon. The volume is in English and Spanish. If Barnes and Noble gets enough requests to lodge through their website, though, if they come across that it’south getting a lot of sales through the site, then the volume volition be available in their stores based on that. But for at present you tin just buy it through Amazon too. It’south available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook, Castilian and English, starting September fifteen.

GamesBeat: It sounds like a big projection, despite the fact that it’s a curt kids’ book. A lot of work goes into this.

Peña: I’ve watched my cousin getting the drawings done, getting the story done. Doing the interview with me and so nosotros could grab the right story for the book. Then I’ve but been promoting information technology myself. We don’t accept any PR and marketing. It’southward all been only us. Then far it’southward been doing great. A lot of people have been pre-ordering. Hopefully this will get the word out even more than once the book releases.

GamesBeat: You’ve ever been the underdog, though.

Peña: Ever. I love it. I used to exist a hip-hop street promoter, running events. I worked with a lot of music artists and labels back in the ‘90s when I was in high school. That helped me get improve at promoting, in-person or whatsoever other way. Information technology wasn’t piece of cake. Simply I’m glad that people have been reaching out and telling me they were interested in the book. Some people have bought a bunch of copies to donate to their local libraries. I have a friend who’s about to see her offset granddaughter be built-in, and she asked me if I could sign her copy, considering she’southward going to read it to her granddaughter. I’ve gotten a lot of letters like that. People from the U.Thousand. are ownership it, people in the Caribbean. Information technology’s exciting.

GamesBeat: Do you tell people that there’s more than to the story?

Peña: Oh, yes. I’ve been doing that in my interviews and on social media. I desire people to empathise that I desire to do more than simply this book. Of grade I desire to do one for an older crowd, but my focus is the kids right now. I desire to inspire them to be the next content creator, the next podcaster, the next gamer. There isn’t anything like that right. I didn’t have momentum or anything like that back then. I want to give that to kids and so they can see, hey, dreams do come truthful.

I told you the story about going to that Xbox event for the first time, meeting Bill Gates. One day, a while back, in our quondam apartment I was merely thinking. I came upward with the idea that I wanted to surprise my parents with something. I told my wife, “Hey, what exercise you lot think of this? Someday I want to surprise my mom and twenty-four hours. I want to accept a billboard in Times Foursquare. I want them to run across that. I know they’re proud, but I want to show them something where they say, ‘Wow, that’s so cool.’”

My wife said, “Danny, you should manifest that. You should mail that on Twitter.” I didn’t want to. It was just me proverb that. Only she said, “No, no, you should do that.” So I posted information technology, and then I got a message about a twenty-four hour period later from Twitch. They said, “Danny, we’re planning to take a campaign. We’re expanding our coverage and we’d beloved for you to exist part of it.” I said, “Sure, I’d love to be part of it.” That was the summertime. Right before September, the cease of August, they said, “Danny, we’d like to become some pictures of you lot. We want to add together yous to the billboards nosotros’ll take for the entrada in Times Foursquare.”

I just said, “What?” They said, “Yeah, four billboards, all across.” It was exactly the same spot that I was at 21 years ago. It was like everything coming full circle. I put that pic in the book, because that’southward function of the story. Information technology’s non completely the story – hopefully there’due south more to come up in the future – but that’s the same location where I went to the Xbox launch in 2001. I surprised my mom. She went to Times Foursquare and got to see it and take a picture. My dad couldn’t travel to New York at the fourth dimension, only I sent him some pictures and videos of it. They were both super proud.

GamesBeat: Are there any other milestones you look back on nearly how pop the show has go? Anything that helps show the kind of success you’ve had?

Peña: I always mention this to people, the download numbers, getting sponsorships from different companies on the podcast, and other business opportunities. Getting gigs to host not simply events, merely even Television receiver shows. I had a show on the Discovery Aqueduct in the mid-2000s. I did that for a year. I’ve been a host for esports and for conferences, not simply in gaming but also in podcasting. Getting into the podcast hall of fame, multiple awards–the list is so long.

We’ve been through multiple podcasting hosts over the years, simply in total from when I started until now, it’s shut to 14 million downloads. We were part of the CBS Radio podcasting network for a few years. Now we’re doing stuff with Audioboom. It’s been great for us. It’due south been a wild ride. I feel like this isn’t the stop for me. I’g still going at it. I still feel like the same child when I just started. I’m excited to record every time. I can’t wait for the future.

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Source: https://venturebeat.com/games/danny-pena-interview-creating-a-career-talking-about-video-games/