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

At some point, his grandmother purchased him a online game system, and it modified his life. He performed too many video games rising up. His dad and mom frightened 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 similar 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 e book.

Now Peña’s inspirational story is the topic of a self-published youngsters’s e book, Danny Loves Video Games, created by 2 High quality Children, a youngsters’s e book firm run by Peña’s cousin and his spouse, Mr. Luna, and Mrs. Ani. It’s out as we speak. I’ve seen Peña’s success develop through the years and watched him change into an inspiration to numerous folks breaking into gaming. He’s nonetheless doing Gamertag Radio and dealing at G4. We talked concerning the e book and his life.

Right here’s an edited transcript of our interview.

Danny Peña began Gamertag Radio in 2005.

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

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

GamesBeat: Your cousin has a youngsters’s e book 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 thought. He wished to do a e book based mostly on my life, and I assumed that will 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 e book a pair months after. I cherished the idea.

GamesBeat: It’s fascinating that you could summarize your life in possibly 20 sentences or so.

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

Once I was a child, I used to be dwelling within the Dominican Republic. Mother knew I used to be enjoying so much, however I all the time wished 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. Would it not be potential to hire an area so I may cost my mates 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 really work out for you?

Peña: Oh, yeah. I made fairly good cash. I purchased a motorbike. However the second motive why I wished to do the e book was to indicate youngsters that goals do come true. It doesn’t must be video video games. However you need to go for it. That is the one e book that I do know of based mostly on the true story of a content material creator from the gaming facet. My objective is to indicate to youngsters that something is feasible.

GamesBeat: Not many individuals may say, earlier than a few decade in the past, that they made cash enjoying video games or their profession was about enjoying video games. That’s one factor that’s a theme for us in our tales and occasions. This concept that you could receives a commission for being enthusiastic about one thing that you simply take pleasure in, that’s pure leisure, and that may flip right into a profession. It’s nonetheless international to lots of people that one thing enjoyable could be a job.

Peña: Once I was a child, I learn a whole lot of sport magazines – EGM, GamePro. I’d see photos of E3 and all of the occasions. They acquired entry to early copies of video games. I all the time wished 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 by myself. My dad was a DJ, so I’d fiddle along with his gear. 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 may file it, and at evening I’d take heed to it and movie my very own scene based mostly on the recording.

Once I was dwelling in Miami I’d get invited to a whole lot of hip-hop radio exhibits. DJs wished me to co-host. I discovered from that. However in 1998 – I used to be in my early 20s on the time – was once I discovered about this firm referred to as Sudo. I don’t know for those who do not forget that. I went to a pal’s home and I used to be utilizing his laptop. He had a 56K modem. I noticed this community, Sudo, the place that they had many alternative exhibits with video or audio. I used to be watching a hip-hop present the place they interviewed certainly one of my favourite artists. I assumed that was fairly cool. I didn’t understand folks may simply do that on-line.

That’s once I wished 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 way of RealPlayer, again within the early days. Then I found MP3.com, although. It was designed for music artists, however I discovered a option to add my content material there. For each one that 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 Loves Video Video games is on the market on Amazon.

GamesBeat: Would you take into account 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 software that the group was creating. You’d get the brand new episode, however you needed to get it by way of your PC.

I keep in mind I acquired invited to Xbox Unleashed, a few weeks earlier than the launch. I acquired 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 wished to create content material. However I additionally wished to compete, as a result of they had been gifting away free journeys to Cancun, gifting away a automobile and all the things. So I turned as much as compete for 48 hours, and on the similar time I acquired a media move, as a result of I went to them and stated, “Hey, I’ve a radio present, I’d like to interview the workforce.”

On the finish of the occasion I didn’t win, however I acquired a whole lot of content material out of it. They had been gifting away 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 record.” They despatched me an Xbox early.

Once I acquired the console, Xbox referred to as me and advised me they wished me to go to the launch occasion in New York, on the Instances Sq. Toys R Us. I keep in mind it, to today. Throughout the road there was the WWF restaurant. However once I went to the Toys R Us occasion that they had tons of safety. I puzzled why that they had so many individuals there. After which once I acquired in they stated, “Oh, Danny, we wish you to play in opposition to Invoice Gates and provides some suggestions to the media concerning the console.” In fact, I’m younger, I’m excited. We performed Fusion Frenzy. There’s photos of it on-line.

Proper after that, I simply acquired 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 present a whole lot of this type of element in your e book. Perhaps that’s for the highschool model?

Peña: Yeah, yeah. This was extra about protecting it easy for younger youngsters. You’ll be able to have your goals. 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 making an attempt to get extra Latinos into the sport business. Once I began, I’d go to occasions and be the one individual of coloration there. Now issues have been getting so much higher. However again within the day I used to be the one one. That’s one other factor I’ve been making an attempt 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 properly.

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 once 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, photos, bio, all the things on this folder. Once 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 believe Xbox was the one one which gave me a possibility to fulfill the workforce, to interview folks. That was the yr 360 was popping out, so that they had a whole lot of occasions occurring.

Podcasting earlier than podcasting.

However moreover them, no one 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. Abruptly 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 wanting 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 slightly tough. I used to be dwelling in New York, and abruptly I began getting a whole lot of calls from sport corporations. Everyone was at house, so it was so much simpler for me to only create content material with them. And the previous few years, 2020 till now, issues have been unimaginable for me. I by no means would have thought I’d be concerned in doing a e book. The podcast continues to be doing nice. I did some gigs for Telemundo. I acquired to interview Reggie, which was a whole lot of enjoyable. It took me 10 years to get that interview. I acquired Phil Spencer on the thousandth episode. That was superb. Keanu Reeves. There’s been so much occurring. Now I’m feeling higher than ever. I only recently purchased a home. My spouse and I acquired married. It’s been nice.

I’d been making an attempt 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 totally different concepts, however Nintendo declined all the things. “Nope.” The best way I lastly acquired Reggie, it was proper after the thousandth episode the place I had Phil Spencer. Once more, you manifest these items. I tweeted, “At some point I’d wish to interview Reggie.” After which Reggie replied, “We must 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 unfavourable. 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 e book? He gave me the heads up upfront that he was engaged on the e book. He gave a sort 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.

Making it massive time in New York.

GamesBeat: Speaking about Gamertag Radio itself, was there an arc to it so far as the way it grew to become standard? 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 suggestions. 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 admittedly into video games!” He got here to my home and we grew to become actually shut after that.

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

Peña: Just a few issues. One was exhibiting when my grandmother purchased me my Atari 2600. That was an important time in my life once 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 acquired Defender and Pac-Man, a few video games. Having that console at my home, it was superior. It was life-changing for me. I wished to indicate that. A present can fully change a child’s life, and that’s what occurred to me. I felt it was vital to indicate that about my grandmother.

I additionally wished to indicate my dad saying, “Hey, video games don’t pay the payments.” That kind of factor. Him being concerned that I used to be enjoying so much, whereas I knew what I wished to do, knew that was my ardour. I felt like that was additionally vital. I wished to indicate that to different dad and mom, and present the success I’ve now, the place I’m at. I do know I couldn’t actually match all the things in there. I’ve an extended historical past with video games and podcasting. However I hope sooner or later I can do extra totally 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 grew to become a possibility. A brand new profession emerged and also you jumped on it. You had all this expertise by the point it grew to become way more viable.

Peña: Undoubtedly. Once I began, I didn’t have a mentor or something like that. I needed to be taught all the things by myself. The know-how was totally different again then. I didn’t have any gear. I simply had a tape recorder linked 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 approach. If I wished to edit something I needed to do it on the cassette.

Quick ahead to 2005 once 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’d meet up within the foyer and other people may be part of. I’d file the audio from there. The standard was horrible. However I managed to create a whole lot of content material like that. The know-how is so significantly better now. It’s a lot simpler to add and create content material. However thank God I went by way of that have, as a result of that helped me to change into a greater creator.

Danny Peña has an inspiring story.

GamesBeat: A part of the lesson is that you simply needed to keep on the sting of know-how.

Peña: Yeah, massive time. Again then, in podcasting, for me and for lots of others, we needed to replace our RSS feeds manually. It wasn’t the way in which 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 all the things on our personal. It might take perpetually.

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

Peña: Every part takes time, too. There are a whole lot of creators, and a whole 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 head to head, that’s one thing that helped me again then. Within the early days I couldn’t attend a whole lot of occasions, but when I may go to an occasion in Miami–I’d simply present up and move 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 would like an iPod?” I all the time simply referred to as it web radio. However assembly folks head to head helped me a lot. It helped me get higher as a creator. I discovered 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 items.

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

Peña: My dad, he lived within the initiatives in New York Metropolis. My mother was a single guardian. My dad and mom divorced once 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 laborious. Mother couldn’t afford the most recent video games, clearly. By the point I used to be in my teenagers, I wished to get a pc, and I couldn’t afford it. That was robust. Once I went to varsity, that was once I lastly acquired one, with my scholar loans.

It wasn’t simple 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 way of to come back to this nation. I’m first technology in my household. I additionally lived within the Dominican Republic for some time, so I acquired to see how it’s over there too. I’m grateful for all the things that my household has achieved. However I’m glad I went by way of 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 for those who don’t have that sort of cash, for those who don’t have the connections or no matter it’s. It helped me change into a greater individual.

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

Peña: Oh, undoubtedly. I need to do far more with the books, for positive. There’s a lot I need to speak about. However I felt good about this story for youths. You see me rising up, working laborious, 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 workforce. 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 throughout 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 reside in Seattle. It was life-changing for me to come back right here. I’ve been very profitable ever since I moved right here. It gives a lot simpler entry for me to work with lots of people.

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

GamesBeat: I discover that you simply’ve gone to not less than one classroom to speak to youngsters immediately. Have you ever achieved a whole lot of that?

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

GamesBeat: It’s a must to do a whole lot of legwork to get one thing like this off the bottom.

Peña: That is all self-publishing. We do all the things by way of Amazon. The e book is in English and Spanish. If Barnes and Noble will get sufficient requests to order by way of their web site, although, in the event that they see that it’s getting a whole lot of gross sales by way of the positioning, then the e book will likely be out there of their shops based mostly on that. However for now you’ll be able to simply purchase it by way of Amazon too. It’s out there in hardcover, paperback, and book, Spanish and English, beginning September 15.

GamesBeat: It feels like an enormous undertaking, even supposing it’s a brief youngsters’ e book. Quite a lot 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 may seize the appropriate story for the e book. Then I’ve simply been selling it myself. We don’t have any PR and advertising. It’s all been simply us. Up to now 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 e book releases.

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

Peña: All the time. I adore it. I was a hip-hop road promoter, working occasions. I labored with a whole lot of music artists and labels again within the ‘90s once I was in highschool. That helped me get higher at selling, in-person or every other approach. It wasn’t simple. However I’m glad that individuals have been reaching out and telling me they had been within the e book. Some folks have purchased a bunch of copies to donate to their native libraries. I’ve a pal who’s about to see her first granddaughter be born, and she or he requested me if I may signal her copy, as a result of she’s going to learn it to her granddaughter. I’ve gotten a whole lot of messages like that. Individuals from the U.Okay. are shopping for it, folks within the Caribbean. It’s thrilling.

GamesBeat: Do you inform folks that there’s extra to the story?

Peña: Oh, sure. I’ve been doing that in my interviews and on social media. I need folks to grasp that I need to do extra than simply this e book. In fact I need to do one for an older crowd, however my focus is the youngsters 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, goals do come true.

I advised you the story about going to that Xbox occasion for the primary time, assembly Invoice Gates. At some point, some time again, in our outdated condo I used to be simply considering. I got here up with the concept I wished to shock my dad and mom 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 need 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, you need 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, you need to try this.” So I posted it, after which I acquired a message a few 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, “Positive, 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 wish to get some photos 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 all the things coming full circle. I put that image within the e book, as a result of that’s a part of the story. It’s not fully the story – hopefully there’s extra to come back 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 acquired to see it and take an image. My dad couldn’t journey to New York on the time, however I despatched him some photos and movies of it. They had been each tremendous proud.

GamesBeat: Are there every other milestones you look again on about how standard the present has change into? Something that helps present the sort of success you’ve had?

Peña: I all the time point out this to folks, the obtain numbers, getting sponsorships from totally 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 in addition in podcasting. Stepping into the podcast corridor of fame, a number of awards–the record is so lengthy.

We’ve been by way of a number of podcasting hosts through the years, however in whole from once 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 once I simply began. I’m excited to file each time. I can’t anticipate the longer term.

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