When Danny Peña was a kid, he would spend hours playing games at his local New York arcade before getting his first console, the Atari 2600, from his grandmother. Peña knew early on that he wanted to do something in the gaming industry, but he didn’t know what. All the way, he was told that video games wouldn’t pay the bills, but he didn’t let that deter him. Fast forward two decades later, and Peña returns to New York to show his mother a billboard showing his face in Times Square – a monument to his success in the gaming industry, but not easy to achieve. Now, with a new children’s book called Danny loves video games About his life and career due to be released this week, I sat down with Peña to chat about his path to this point.
While the 2021 Times Square billboard marked an important milestone for Peña, it’s just another tick in the long list of awards for the player for life. Peña started Gamertag Radio in 2005, a time when game podcasts were numbered in the tens instead of tens of thousands. In 2015, Peña was inducted into the Podcast Hall of Fame, and in 2020, Gamertag Radio became the first gaming podcast to reach 1,000 episodes. In addition to the audio broadcast, Peña also presides over the opening game for the G4TVactivated gaming network featuring the likes display attackAnd the XplayAnd countless other popular programs. But before he left an indelible mark on gaming industry content creation, his first gaming business was a convenience store in the Dominican Republic.
The Times Square billboard featuring Danny Peña that was shown in September 2021
“When I lived there — it was like, I was really in my teens, in my early teens — I had a lot of Super Nintendos and Sega Genesis games, and I brought this to my mom and I asked her, ‘Hey, it’s OK to rent an office space, or get On a bunch of TVs, and I already have a bunch of consoles…why not charge people to play my games? I can charge them every 15 minutes, or every 30 minutes, or an hour, or I’ll rent some of them games,” and she said to me, “I love this idea, let’s do it,” Peña told me on this week’s episode of All Things Nintendo podcast. “No one else was doing that, so at the time, I had Mortal Kombat II, Street Fighter II, and Donkey Kong Country just came out, so people were coming to my office because they wanted to play the new Donkey Kong Country. […] I had a bunch of great games that guys and gals share…even the older adults just play sports. That was the first time I set up a business: during the early 1990s. “
Peña’s shop was so successful that he earned enough money to buy a motorcycle. This early 90s Dominican Republic store may have had his first video game job, but in the late 90s Peña received the inspiration he needed that would lead him onto his true career path in the gaming industry. Living in Miami, Florida, at the time, Peña became involved in the local hip-hop scene. Through this, he started listening to a program that includes interviews and discussions about music. “I was like, ‘I want to have my own show, but I want it to be online,'” he says. “I tried doing it in 1998, but it was too expensive, I didn’t have the equipment, nothing. So I couldn’t do that.”
Although he couldn’t make it at the time, Peña finally pursued that goal around the Dreamcast launch of Phantasy Star Online in 2001. Peña put on a show called PSO Radio, which he did for a few months. A few years later, in 2005, he created Gamertag Radio, which still shows two episodes a week to this day.
With all the success Peña had throughout his career, he was called by his cousin, Mr. Luna, and his cousin’s wife, Mrs. Annie. The pair have released children’s books in the past few years under the direction of a company called 2 Quality People. Mr. Luna told Peña that he wanted to write a children’s book based on his life and career, and Peña immediately joined in. the result is Danny Loves Video Games: Based on the true story of Danny Peñaa children’s book that recalls Peña’s lifelong experience from his childhood in New York, all the way to his continued success in 2022.
“There are two reasons why I want to do this,” Peña says. “The first is educating parents that dreams come true. Instead of parents shutting down their children every time their child says, ‘Oh, I want to be this.’ I want to do that,” some parents might say, ‘Oh no, you’re wasting your time. This does not pay the bills. So thwart them. I want to teach them and show them like, look, dreams come true. you passed. The second reason is to help children and show them that it is possible to achieve their dreams. “
Other than those goals (and the entertainment of everyone who reads them, of course), Peña has even greater ambitions for what Danny loves video games can accomplish. “I also made this in Spanish,” he says. “This has always been my goal for years: I want to get a lot of Latinos into the gaming industry. It could be as a journalist or a content creator or anything related to games. I want them to get involved because if you think about it, the percentage of Latinos and even people of color in the industry is small. Very, very. Some of them don’t know what to do, how to do it, and they don’t have the resources, and that was my goal: to get a lot of people from Latin America, even here in the United States, to be involved in the industry.”
The book is colourful, breezy and inspiring. It serves as a great overview of Peña’s story, even mentioning some of his interviews with icons like Keanu Reeves, Danny Trejo, Snoop Dogg, and more. It depicts Peña’s profession in an easy-to-understand and easy to understand manner and delivers the important message of hard work and perseverance to achieve your dreams.
“I’ve never given up, even during the toughest times of my life, having been a couple over the years I almost gave up,” Peña says when talking about what all this success means to him. “But having good people in my life like Peter Toledo and Paris Lilly, I have [Gamertag Radio] The co-hosts, and even my family, were always there for me and saying, ‘Don’t give up. Keep going.’ And I think that’s why I’ve been working all these years. And I believe in him. I have felt, since I was little, that something big is going to come out of this. something big.”
Even with more than two decades of content creation under his belt, Peña feels as fresh and happy as ever in his career. “I still don’t feel tired; I don’t get tired, I don’t feel overwhelmed, I feel like I’m having a great time creating content and releasing content to my community,” he says. “I feel like this is just the beginning. However, even after 20 years, I still feel that there is more to come.”
Danny loves video games It arrives on September 15th. You can buy the book from Barnes & Noble or Amazon (English version, Spanish version). He and the book’s author, Mr. Luna, are reading and signing at the Kindle Lakes Branch Library on Thursday, September 15 at 6:30 p.m. (unfortunately, the event is full as of this writing). You can follow Gamertag Radio on your favorite podcast platform.