When Danny Peña was a baby, he would spend hours taking part in video games at his native New York arcade earlier than he acquired his first console, an Atari 2600, from his grandmother. Peña knew early on that he needed to do one thing within the video games business, however he did not know what. All alongside the way in which, he was advised that video video games will not pay the payments, however he did not let that deter him. Flash ahead a few many years, and Peña returned to New York to point out his mom a billboard that includes his face in Instances Sq. – a monument to his success within the video games business, however not one which was straightforward to realize. Now, with a brand new kids’s ebook known as Danny Loves Video Video games about his life and profession set to launch this week, I sat down with Peña to speak about his highway thus far.
Whereas the 2021 Instances Sq. billboard served as an necessary milestone for Peña, it is simply one other in an extended checklist of accolades for the lifelong gamer. Peña began Gamertag Radio in 2005, a time when gaming podcasts had been numbered within the tens as an alternative of the tens of hundreds. In 2015, Peña was inducted into the Podcast Corridor of Fame, and in 2020, Gamertag Radio grew to become the primary gaming podcast to succeed in 1,000 episodes. Along with podcasting, Peña additionally heads up video games editorial at G4TV, the revitalized gaming community that options the likes of Assault of the Present, X-Play, and myriad different iconic packages. However earlier than leaving an indelible mark on video games business content material creation, his first games-related enterprise was a small retailer within the Dominican Republic.
The Instances Sq. billboard that includes Danny Peña that ran in September 2021
“After I was residing over there – that is like, I used to be in my teenagers already, early teenagers – I had lots of Tremendous Nintendos and Sega Genesis, and I introduced this as much as my mother and I requested her, ‘Hey, is it okay for us to lease out an workplace house, get a bunch of TVs, I have already got a bunch of consoles… why not cost folks to play my video games? I might cost them each quarter-hour, each half-hour, or an hour, or a few of them I’ll lease them the video games,’ and she or he was like, ‘I like that concept, let’s do it,'” Peña tells me on this week’s episode of the All Issues Nintendo podcast. “No person else was doing it, so at the moment, I had Mortal Kombat II, Avenue Fighter II, Donkey Kong Nation had simply come out, so folks had been coming to my workplace as a result of they needed to play the brand new Donkey Kong Nation. […] I had a bunch of cool video games that younger adults, children… even older adults would are available and simply play sports activities video games. That was the primary time that I created a enterprise: in the course of the early ’90s.”
Peña’s store was so profitable that he earned sufficient cash to purchase a bike. That early-’90s store within the Dominican Republic might have been his first job involving video video games, however within the late ’90s, Peña acquired the inspiration he wanted that may lead him into his true profession path in the video games business. Residing in Miami, Florida, on the time, Peña received concerned within the native hip-hop scene. By that, he began listening to a present that featured interviews and discussions about music. “I used to be like, ‘I wish to have my very own present, however I wish to have it on-line,'” he says. “I attempted to do it in 1998, however it was so costly, and I did not have the tools, nothing. So I could not do it.”
Although he could not pull it off then, Peña lastly adopted by way of on that purpose across the Dreamcast launch of Phantasy Star On-line in 2001. Peña put collectively a present known as PSO Radio, which he did for a number of months. A couple of years later, in 2005, he created Gamertag Radio, which continues to be operating two episodes every week to at the present time.
With all of the success all through Peña’s profession, his cousin, Mr. Luna, and his cousin’s spouse, Mrs. Ani, contacted him. The couple has been placing out kids’s books for the previous couple of years underneath an organization known as 2 High quality Folks. Mr. Luna advised Peña that he needed to create a kids’s ebook primarily based on his life and profession, and Peña was instantly on board. The end result is Danny Loves Video Video games: Based mostly on the True Story of Danny Peña, a kids’s ebook that remembers Peña’s lifelong expertise from his childhood New York arcade all the way in which as much as his continued success in 2022.
“There are a few the reason why I needed to do it,” Peña says. “One is to coach dad and mom that desires do come true. As an alternative of the dad and mom shutting down the children each time their little one is like, ‘Oh I wish to be this. I wish to do this,’ some dad and mom would possibly say, ‘Oh no, you are losing your time. That does not pay the payments.’ So discouraging them. I wish to educate them and present them like, look, desires do come true. It labored out for me. And the second motive is to assist children and present them that it is doable to realize their desires.”
Past these targets (and leisure to all who learn it, after all), Peña has grander ambitions for what Danny Loves Video Video games can accomplish. “I additionally made this in Spanish,” he says. “This has all the time been my purpose for years: I wish to get lots of Latinos concerned within the gaming business. It might be as a journalist, or content material creator, or something that has to do with video games. I need them to get entangled as a result of if you concentrate on it, the proportion of Latinos and even folks of coloration within the business may be very, very small. A few of them do not know what to do, the best way to do it, they do not have the sources, and that is been my purpose: to get lots of the folks from Latin America, and even right here within the States, for them to be concerned with the business.”
The ebook is colourful, breezy, and inspirational. It serves as an amazing overview of Peña’s story, even referencing a few of his interviews with icons like Keanu Reeves, Danny Trejo, Snoop Dogg, and extra. It portrays Peña’s profession in a digestible and easy-to-understand approach and delivers the necessary message of working onerous and being persistent to realize your desires.
“I by no means gave up, even throughout essentially the most tough occasions in my life, which there’s been a pair all through the years that I nearly give up,” Peña says when speaking about what all this success means to him. “However having good folks in my life like Peter Toledo and Parris Lilly, my [Gamertag Radio] co-hosts, and even my household, they’ve all the time been there for me and saying, ‘Do not give up. Preserve going.’ And I believe that is the explanation why I stored going for all these years. And I believed in it. I’ve felt that, since I used to be younger, that one thing huge goes to come back out of this. One thing huge.”
Even with greater than twenty years of content material creation underneath his belt, Peña is feeling as refreshed and joyful as ever together with his profession. “I nonetheless do not feel drained; I do not really feel drained, I do not really feel burnt out, I really feel like I am having a good time creating content material and releasing content material for my group,” he says. “I really feel like that is just the start. Nonetheless, even after 20-something years, I nonetheless really feel like there’s far more stuff arising sooner or later.”
Danny Loves Video Video games arrives on September 15. You should buy the ebook at Barnes & Noble or Amazon (English model, Spanish model). He and the ebook’s creator, Mr. Luna, are doing a studying and signing on the Kendale Lakes Department Library on Thursday, September 15 at 6:30 p.m (sadly, the occasion is full as of this writing). You may observe Gamertag Radio in your favourite podcast platform.