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Danny Peña interview: Making a profession speaking about video video games


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Danny Peña has a kind of fairy-tale tales that the online game business is so good at creating. He grew up in a tricky neighborhood within the Bronx, the son of divorced mother and father, in addition to the Dominican Republic.

Sooner or later, his grandmother purchased him a online game system, and it modified his life. He performed too many video games rising up. His mother and father nervous about his research and what he was going to do along with his life. However like so many creators and influencers, Peña determined to create his personal job. He began with DJ work after which migrated to this new factor referred to as podcasting.

In 2005, he began Gamertag Radio along with his brother and was joined later by Peter Toledo and Parris Lilly. The viewers grew and now his podcasts have been downloaded greater than 14 million occasions. He confirmed up on the Xbox launch in 2001 and performed a sport with Invoice Gates.

He has had an opportunity to interview business luminaries equivalent to Microsoft gaming boss Phil Spencer and Reggie Fils-Aime (former CEO of Nintendo of America). He co-emceed our GamesBeat Summit 2022 occasion final April and he interviewed Fils-Aime about his personal post-Nintendo ebook.

Now Peña’s inspirational story is the topic of a self-published kids’s ebook, Danny Loves Video Video games, created by 2 High quality Youngsters, a kids’s ebook firm run by Peña’s cousin and his spouse, Mr. Luna, and Mrs. Ani. It’s out at the moment. I’ve seen Peña’s success develop over time and watched him develop into an inspiration to numerous folks breaking into gaming. He’s nonetheless doing Gamertag Radio and dealing at G4. We talked concerning the ebook and his life.

Right here’s an edited transcript of our interview.

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

GamesBeat: You have to be very proud to get this ebook out.

Danny Peña: Yeah, I’m excited. It’s been a ardour venture for me and my cousin. It’s popping out subsequent week.

GamesBeat: Your cousin has a kids’s ebook label?

Peña: Proper. It’s referred to as 2qualitykids. It’s him and his spouse. They’ve been doing it for 2 years or so. He’s the one who got here to me with the concept. He needed to do a ebook primarily based on my life, and I assumed that may be nice. Let’s speak about it. He requested me a pair questions, I answered, and so they got here again with some samples of the ebook a pair months after. I beloved the idea.

GamesBeat: It’s attention-grabbing that you would be able to summarize your life in possibly 20 sentences or so.

Peña: The rationale why I needed to do that–it’s two issues. One is for folks, to inform them to not shut down their youngsters’ desires. My dad, again after I was rising up, he simply didn’t get it. To at the present time he doesn’t actually perceive what I do. He’s proud, however on the time, it was a kind of instances the place he simply wanted to see outcomes to know and name it profitable. My mother was extra understanding. Simply do it.

After I was a child, I used to be dwelling within the Dominican Republic. Mother knew I used to be taking part in loads, however I all the time needed to create a enterprise out of video video games. I advised her, “Hey, mother, I’ve a bunch of Tremendous Nintendos and a few Sega Genesis consoles. Wouldn’t it be doable to hire an area so I might cost my associates across the block, or anybody who needs to play?” I’d cost for quarter-hour, half-hour, an hour. Some folks, if I knew them, I’d hire them video games. I used to be in my early teenagers.

An entertainer at four years old.
An entertainer at 4 years outdated.

GamesBeat: Did that truly work out for you?

Peña: Oh, yeah. I made fairly good cash. I purchased a motorbike. However the second purpose why I needed to do the ebook was to point out youngsters that desires do come true. It doesn’t need to be video video games. However it is best to go for it. That is the one ebook that I do know of primarily based on the true story of a content material creator from the gaming facet. My objective is to point out to youngsters that something is feasible.

GamesBeat: Not many individuals might say, earlier than a couple of decade in the past, that they made cash taking part in video games or their profession was about taking part in video games. That’s one factor that’s a theme for us in our tales and occasions. This concept that you would be able to receives a commission for being captivated with one thing that you just take pleasure in, that’s pure leisure, and that may flip right into a profession. It’s nonetheless overseas to lots of people that one thing enjoyable generally is a job.

Peña: After I was a child, I learn quite a lot of sport magazines – EGM, GamePro. I’d see footage of E3 and all of the occasions. They received entry to early copies of video games. I all the time needed to be a part of that. Not essentially as a journalist, however I used to be all the time into radio and TV. I used to be studying alone. My dad was a DJ, so I’d fiddle along with his tools. On the time I’d use a radio with a built-in mic and file no matter was within the background. If the TV was on I might file it, and at night time I’d hearken to it and film my very own scene primarily based on the recording.

After I was dwelling in Miami I’d get invited to quite a lot of hip-hop radio exhibits. DJs needed me to co-host. I realized from that. However in 1998 – I used to be in my early 20s on the time – was after I came upon about this firm referred to as Sudo. I don’t know when you keep in mind that. I went to a good friend’s home and I used to be utilizing his pc. He had a 56K modem. I noticed this community, Sudo, the place they’d many alternative exhibits with video or audio. I used to be watching a hip-hop present the place they interviewed one in every of my favourite artists. I assumed that was fairly cool. I didn’t notice folks might simply do that on-line.

That’s after I needed to start out my very own radio present. However on the time I had no PC. It was nonetheless so costly simply to stream by RealPlayer, again within the early days. Then I found MP3.com, although. It was designed for music artists, however I discovered a technique to add my content material there. For each one who listened to you, you possibly can receives a commission on MP3.com. I put up my content material with that free internet hosting and lots of people began listening to my present. My first verify was about 500 bucks. That was actually cool.

danny Book Cover
Danny Loves Video Video games is out there on Amazon.

GamesBeat: Would you think about that the start, then?

Peña: Yeah, that was the start for me as a content material creator in web radio. However podcasting began later, round September 2004. I launched Gamertag Radio in February 2005. There have been no functions like iTunes, although. We needed to rely on a 3rd celebration utility that the group was creating. You’d get the brand new episode, however you needed to get it by your PC.

I keep in mind I received invited to Xbox Unleashed, a few weeks earlier than the launch. I received hands-on. The loopy half about that occasion, I confirmed up with a tape recorder and a video digital camera, as a result of I needed to create content material. However I additionally needed to compete, as a result of they had been giving freely free journeys to Cancun, giving freely a automotive and every little thing. So I turned as much as compete for 48 hours, and on the identical time I received a media go, as a result of I went to them and stated, “Hey, I’ve a radio present, I’d like to interview the group.”

On the finish of the occasion I didn’t win, however I received quite a lot of content material out of it. They had been giving freely consoles, although, to individuals who had been there for 48 hours. They noticed my badge and thought I used to be only a journalist. I stated, “No, no, I’m competing! I’ve proof!” I confirmed them my video recording and they also stated, “Okay, put him on the listing.” They despatched me an Xbox early.

After I received the console, Xbox referred to as me and advised me they needed me to go to the launch occasion in New York, on the Instances Sq. Toys R Us. I keep in mind it, to at the present time. Throughout the road there was the WWF restaurant. However after I went to the Toys R Us occasion they’d tons of safety. I puzzled why they’d so many individuals there. After which after I received in they stated, “Oh, Danny, we would like you to play in opposition to Invoice Gates and provides some suggestions to the media concerning the console.” After all, I’m younger, I’m excited. We performed Fusion Frenzy. There’s footage of it on-line.

Proper after that, I simply received impressed to create Gamertag Radio. I launched it in February of 2005. However that yr is when iTunes first added podcasts. It was round July of 2005.

GamesBeat: It’s too dangerous you didn’t get to offer quite a lot of this type of element in your ebook. Possibly that’s for the highschool model?

Peña: Yeah, yeah. This was extra about conserving it easy for younger youngsters. You possibly can have your desires. Something is feasible. Present them that I’m an enormous fan of video games, ranging from the arcades. Getting my Atari 2600 for the primary time. Creating Gamertag Radio. However I need to do a sequence sooner or later.

I’m releasing this on September 15, in Hispanic heritage month. I’m additionally attempting to get extra Latinos into the sport business. After I began, I’d go to occasions and be the one individual of shade there. Now issues have been getting loads higher. However again within the day I used to be the one one. That’s one other factor I’ve been attempting to do, simply to alter the mindset of different Latinos, particularly the older technology. From the business facet, it’s all about leisure, media, musicians, sports activities. I need to present that there’s a path to gaming as effectively.

GamesBeat: Was there a sure level the place you felt such as you had been going to make it, versus considering this was of venture which may not repay?

Peña: It was a loopy expertise, however I’ll offer you an ideal instance from after I launched GTR. That yr I went to E3 for the primary time. I’d by no means been there. I didn’t have connections with sport corporations. I had no appointments. I created a press equipment with my brother. I put down all the cash I needed to print that up with a CD, footage, bio, every little thing on this folder. After I went to E3 I gave that to each single sport firm, and I stated, “Now we have a podcast.” Lots of people checked out me bizarre, like, “What’s a podcast?” They ignored me, by no means gave me an opportunity. I feel Xbox was the one one which gave me a chance to fulfill the group, to interview folks. That was the yr 360 was popping out, so they’d quite a lot of occasions occurring.

danny radio tape 1
Podcasting earlier than podcasting.

However apart from them, no person else gave me an opportunity. I went house to Miami feeling tremendous discouraged. Proper afterward, although, that’s when Steve Jobs introduced they had been including podcasts to iTunes. Out of the blue I used to be getting all these calls from sport corporations. Now they knew what was occurring. Now they knew about podcasts. A yr after that I used to be getting interviews left and proper at E3. Even at house I used to be getting alternatives to attend occasions or interview folks remotely.

There have been moments the place I felt like this was trying actually good. However even within the years after there have been occasions when it appeared prefer it may not work out. I used to be in a very darkish place round 2018. I felt like issues simply weren’t going to work. Alternatives had been going away. Then the pandemic occurred. That was a bit of tough. I used to be dwelling in New York, and all of a sudden I began getting quite a lot of calls from sport corporations. Everyone was at house, so it was loads simpler for me to only create content material with them. And the previous few years, 2020 till now, issues have been unbelievable for me. I by no means would have thought I’d be concerned in doing a ebook. The podcast remains to be doing nice. I did some gigs for Telemundo. I received to interview Reggie, which was quite a lot of enjoyable. It took me 10 years to get that interview. I received Phil Spencer on the thousandth episode. That was wonderful. Keanu Reeves. There’s been loads occurring. Now I’m feeling higher than ever. I only recently purchased a home. My spouse and I received married. It’s been nice.

I’d been attempting to get Reggie on the podcast for a decade. You know the way Nintendo is. “Nope.” Yearly. I used to be actually cool with the PR folks there and I’d pitch completely different concepts, however Nintendo declined every little thing. “Nope.” The best way I lastly received Reggie, it was proper after the thousandth episode the place I had Phil Spencer. Once more, you manifest this stuff. I tweeted, “Sooner or later I’d prefer to interview Reggie.” After which Reggie replied, “We should always make that occur.” It took one other yr after that, so make it 11 years.

I inform this to creators. You by no means know who’s listening and also you by no means know who’s studying. Be sensible about what you put up on-line. You don’t need to be adverse. It’ll go round. The business is so small.

However as soon as I recorded the podcast with Reggie–I used to be asking him extra private questions. What was it like being up in New York? Are you going to work on a ebook? He gave me the heads up upfront that he was engaged on the ebook. He gave a type of sneak peek on the podcast. As soon as that was achieved and I shared it–he actually loved the dialog. And the remaining is historical past.

Danny Pena Times Square
Making it large time in New York.

GamesBeat: Speaking about Gamertag Radio itself, was there an arc to it so far as the way it turned common? Had been Peter and Parris all the time on it with you?

Peña: I began it with my brother. However Peter and Parris have been with me for greater than a decade. I met Parris first in 2006. He noticed a video the place I used to be featured at an occasion with EA and Xbox. He noticed that video and he was impressed to do a podcast too. He hit me up and he helped him out, gave him some ideas. He began his personal present, after which years later joined GTR. With Pete, I met him due to his spouse. She and I used to work collectively on the Discovery Channel in Miami. She stated, “My boyfriend is actually into video games!” He got here to my home and we turned actually shut after that.

GamesBeat: Are there specific issues within the ebook that you just felt such as you needed to have in that small variety of pages?

Peña: A couple of issues. One was exhibiting when my grandmother purchased me my Atari 2600. That was a vital time in my life after I was a child. She didn’t know something about video games. She handed away a very long time in the past. However on the time – 1984, 1985 – she purchased three 2600s, one for me and the others for my different cousins. I received Defender and Pac-Man, a few video games. Having that console at my home, it was superior. It was life-changing for me. I needed to point out that. A present can utterly change a child’s life, and that’s what occurred to me. I felt it was vital to point out that about my grandmother.

I additionally needed to point out my dad saying, “Hey, video games don’t pay the payments.” That sort of factor. Him worrying that I used to be taking part in loads, whereas I knew what I needed to do, knew that was my ardour. I felt like that was additionally vital. I needed to point out that to different mother and father, and present the success I’ve now, the place I’m at. I do know I couldn’t actually match every little thing in there. I’ve a protracted historical past with video games and podcasting. However I hope sooner or later I can do extra completely different tales, extra about me moving into podcasting and doing interviews. I’ve so many issues I need to share.

GamesBeat: It does really feel such as you grew up on the proper time for when podcasting got here into being, when content material creation turned a chance. A brand new profession emerged and also you jumped on it. You had all this expertise by the point it turned rather more viable.

Peña: Undoubtedly. After I began, I didn’t have a mentor or something like that. I needed to study every little thing alone. The expertise was completely different again then. I didn’t have any tools. I simply had a tape recorder related to a pc. Something I had on the cassette, I pressed play and recorded that on the pc. It was all in actual time. That was the one method. If I needed to edit something I needed to do it on the cassette.

Quick ahead to 2005 after I launched GTR, I used to be utilizing the Halo 2 foyer because the hub for me to do interviews. Everyone had Halo, so we might meet up within the foyer and other people might be a part of. I’d file the audio from there. The standard was horrible. However I managed to create quite a lot of content material like that. The expertise is so significantly better now. It’s a lot simpler to add and create content material. However thank God I went by that have, as a result of that helped me to develop into a greater creator.

danny speaking engagement
Danny Peña has an inspiring story.

GamesBeat: A part of the lesson is that you just needed to keep on the sting of expertise.

Peña: Yeah, large time. Again then, in podcasting, for me and for lots of others, we needed to replace our RSS feeds manually. It wasn’t the best way it’s now, the place an internet site or a bunch would simply take your content material and create that RSS feed and replace all of it for you. Again then we needed to write every little thing on our personal. It will take without end.

GamesBeat: And that a part of the lesson is that there’s quite a lot of exhausting work right here. It’s not simply being fortunate or being on the proper time.

Peña: Every part takes time, too. There are quite a lot of creators, and quite a lot of them, I really feel like they need to see success so shortly. It takes time. It’s good to pay your dues. Networking and attending to know folks personally at occasions, assembly them nose to nose, that’s one thing that helped me again then. Within the early days I couldn’t attend quite a lot of occasions, but when I might go to an occasion in Miami–I’d simply present up and go out flyers to let folks know. “I’ve a radio present, test it out.” I by no means used the phrase “podcast.” Then they’d say, “Oh, I want an iPod?” I all the time simply referred to as it web radio. However assembly folks nose to nose helped me a lot. It helped me get higher as a creator. I realized to conduct conversations. I used to be very shy as a child. However after some time that went away, as a result of I used to be being actually lively in doing these things.

GamesBeat: How tough was it rising up the place you probably did? Did you ever really feel like your loved ones was poorer than quite a lot of others?

Peña: My dad, he lived within the initiatives in New York Metropolis. My mother was a single father or mother. My mother and father divorced after I was 5 or so. I used to be all the time visiting forwards and backwards. My dad lived within the Bronx and my mother lived in Manhattan. It was exhausting. Mother couldn’t afford the newest video games, clearly. By the point I used to be in my teenagers, I needed to get a pc, and I couldn’t afford it. That was powerful. After I went to varsity, that was after I lastly received one, with my pupil loans.

It wasn’t straightforward for me. However I’m glad that I skilled that, as a result of it helped me to understand life. The struggles that my mother and my dad went by to return to this nation. I’m first technology in my household. I additionally lived within the Dominican Republic for some time, so I received to see how it’s over there too. I’m grateful for every little thing that my household has achieved. However I’m glad I went by all that. It’s an eye-opener. Right here, lots of people–we’re spoiled. We all the time have electrical energy. We all the time have web. It’s good to expertise what occurs when you don’t have that type of cash, when you don’t have the connections or no matter it’s. It helped me develop into a greater individual.

GamesBeat: I really feel like that’s an enormous a part of the highschool model of your ebook.

Peña: Oh, undoubtedly. I need to do far more with the books, for certain. There’s a lot I need to speak about. However I felt good about this story for teenagers. You see me rising up, working exhausting, getting that award. Getting inducted into the Corridor of Fame there, the primary Latino–it was the primary group that was inducted, so that you had me, Adam Curry and so forth.

GamesBeat: And your spouse is in the identical enterprise?

Peña: She used to work at Xbox as a part of the advertising group. She labored on Halo 5. Her final sport was–not Life is Unusual, however the Life is Unusual developer. Inform Me Why! She labored on that sport. That was her final sport earlier than she moved to California. We met through the pandemic. After that, I began dwelling right here. She used to work at G4, after which I moved to working at G4 in October of final yr, for the relaunch. I’m nonetheless there.

I’d by no means lived in Los Angeles, and she or he’d by no means lived right here. She used to dwell in Seattle. It was life-changing for me to return right here. I’ve been very profitable ever since I moved right here. It supplies a lot simpler entry for me to work with lots of people.

danny 2
Danny Peña interviews Reggie Fils-Aime at GamesBeat Summit 2022.

GamesBeat: I discover that you just’ve gone to no less than one classroom to speak to youngsters immediately. Have you ever achieved quite a lot of that?

Peña: No, I’m truly doing that subsequent week. My cousin’s spouse is a trainer. Like I discussed, the publishing firm known as 2qualitykids. The creator is Mr. Luna, and that’s my cousin’s spouse, the trainer. She learn the ebook to her college students again in July and so they beloved it. For me, subsequent week goes to be my first time seeing folks, getting the ebook, signing it and studying it. We’ll be doing a launch occasion. We’ll meet quite a lot of the mother and father of the children there on the public library in Miami.

GamesBeat: You must do quite a lot of legwork to get one thing like this off the bottom.

Peña: That is all self-publishing. We do every little thing by Amazon. The ebook is in English and Spanish. If Barnes and Noble will get sufficient requests to order by their web site, although, in the event that they see that it’s getting quite a lot of gross sales by the location, then the ebook can be obtainable of their shops primarily based on that. However for now you may simply purchase it by Amazon too. It’s obtainable in hardcover, paperback, and book, Spanish and English, beginning September 15.

GamesBeat: It seems like an enormous venture, even supposing it’s a brief youngsters’ ebook. Loads of work goes into this.

Peña: I’ve watched my cousin getting the drawings achieved, getting the story achieved. Doing the interview with me so we might seize the correct story for the ebook. Then I’ve simply been selling it myself. We don’t have any PR and advertising. It’s all been simply us. Thus far it’s been doing nice. Lots of people have been pre-ordering. Hopefully this may get the phrase out much more as soon as the ebook releases.

GamesBeat: You’ve all the time been the underdog, although.

Peña: All the time. I find it irresistible. I was a hip-hop road promoter, operating occasions. I labored with quite a lot of music artists and labels again within the ‘90s after I was in highschool. That helped me get higher at selling, in-person or some other method. It wasn’t straightforward. However I’m glad that individuals have been reaching out and telling me they had been within the ebook. Some folks have purchased a bunch of copies to donate to their native libraries. I’ve a good friend who’s about to see her first granddaughter be born, and she or he requested me if I might signal her copy, as a result of she’s going to learn it to her granddaughter. I’ve gotten quite a lot of messages like that. Folks from the U.Okay. are shopping for it, folks within the Caribbean. It’s thrilling.

GamesBeat: Do you inform people who there’s extra to the story?

Peña: Oh, sure. I’ve been doing that in my interviews and on social media. I would like folks to know that I need to do extra than simply this ebook. After all I need to do one for an older crowd, however my focus is the children proper now. I need to encourage them to be the subsequent content material creator, the subsequent podcaster, the subsequent gamer. There isn’t something like that proper. I didn’t have momentum or something like that again then. I need to give that to youngsters to allow them to see, hey, desires do come true.

I advised you the story about going to that Xbox occasion for the primary time, assembly Invoice Gates. Sooner or later, some time again, in our outdated residence I used to be simply considering. I got here up with the concept I needed to shock my mother and father with one thing. I advised my spouse, “Hey, what do you consider this? Sometime I need to shock my mother and day. I need to have a billboard in Instances Sq.. I would like them to see that. I do know they’re proud, however I need to present them one thing the place they are saying, ‘Wow, that’s so cool.’”

My spouse stated, “Danny, it is best to manifest that. It’s best to put up that on Twitter.” I didn’t need to. It was simply me saying that. However she stated, “No, no, it is best to try this.” So I posted it, after which I received a message a couple of day later from Twitch. They stated, “Danny, we’re planning to have a marketing campaign. We’re increasing our protection and we’d love so that you can be a part of it.” I stated, “Certain, I’d like to be a part of it.” That was {the summertime}. Proper earlier than September, the tip of August, they stated, “Danny, we’d prefer to get some footage of you. We need to add you to the billboards we’ll have for the marketing campaign in Instances Sq..”

I simply stated, “What?” They stated, “Yeah, 4 billboards, all throughout.” It was precisely the identical spot that I used to be at 21 years in the past. It was like every little thing coming full circle. I put that image within the ebook, as a result of that’s a part of the story. It’s not utterly the story – hopefully there’s extra to return sooner or later – however that’s the identical location the place I went to the Xbox launch in 2001. I stunned my mother. She went to Instances Sq. and received to see it and take an image. My dad couldn’t journey to New York on the time, however I despatched him some footage and movies of it. They had been each tremendous proud.

GamesBeat: Are there some other milestones you look again on about how common the present has develop into? Something that helps present the type of success you’ve had?

Peña: I all the time point out this to folks, the obtain numbers, getting sponsorships from completely different corporations on the podcast, and different enterprise alternatives. Getting gigs to host not solely occasions, however even TV exhibits. I had a present on the Discovery Channel within the mid-2000s. I did that for a yr. I’ve been a bunch for esports and for conferences, not solely in gaming but additionally in podcasting. Entering into the podcast corridor of fame, a number of awards–the listing is so lengthy.

We’ve been by a number of podcasting hosts over time, however in whole from after I began till now, it’s near 14 million downloads. We had been a part of the CBS Radio podcasting community for a number of years. Now we’re doing stuff with Audioboom. It’s been nice for us. It’s been a wild trip. I really feel like this isn’t the tip for me. I’m nonetheless going at it. I nonetheless really feel like the identical child after I simply began. I’m excited to file each time. I can’t anticipate the long run.

GamesBeat’s creed when protecting the sport business is “the place ardour meets enterprise.” What does this imply? We need to inform you how the information issues to you — not simply as a decision-maker at a sport studio, but additionally as a fan of video games. Whether or not you learn our articles, hearken to our podcasts, or watch our movies, GamesBeat will aid you study concerning the business and revel in partaking with it. Uncover our Briefings.

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