Q&Game with Danny Peña of Gamertag Radio

Four years after playing Xbox with Bill Gates in 2001, Danny Peña launched Gamertag Radio (GTR), a podcast to help unite the gaming community. GTR covers everything from gaming news to interviews in weekly episodes. We sat down with Peña to see how GTR got started and what they’re all about.

Q: Can you provide us with some background about who you are, your favorite games, and perhaps really what inspired your love of gaming?

My name is Danny Peña. I am the founder and Co-host of Gamertag Radio. I am an Academy of Podcasters 2016 Hall of Fame inductee. Some of my favorite games are Final Fantasy III (SNES), Streets of Rage I & II (Sega Gen) and Phantasy Star Online (Dreamcast), Halo 2, BioShock, Forza Horizon 3 and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.  In the 80's, my Grandmother surprised me with my first video game console, the Atari 2600. This is the reason why I'm a fan of gaming.

Q: How did you get started in podcasting? How long have you been producing Gamertag Radio?

I started my own internet radio show back in February 2001 for Phantasy Star Online called PSO Radio. Later that year, I heard that Microsoft and Nintendo were going to be in New York City to promote their new consoles, Xbox and GameCube. I decided to attend the events and recorded interviews for my other show, Game Voice. At the end of the event, the Xbox team called us upstairs and thanked us for staying until the end. The former Chief Experience Officer and Chief Technology Officer for the Entertainment and Devices Division at Microsoft, the man behind creating the original Xbox, J. Allard surprised us with a free Xbox gaming console before launch.

A few weeks later, I got a call from Microsoft. They invited me to a special launch party in Times Square.  At the event, they wanted me to meet Bill Gates and play Xbox games with him for the press. This inspired me to start a brand new show called Gamertag Radio. Twelve years later we were given the opportunity to partner with Twitch.  We're excited to take the podcast to the next level. People can watch us record the podcast live at http://twitch.tv/gamertagradio

Q: What differences have you noticed in video game podcasting since you started?

When I started, there were no smartphones or social media.  iTunes wasn't supporting podcasts and the only way people could listen to the show was through a computer. People had to get 3rd party apps to download podcasts. There weren't that many video game podcasts out there.

Q: You’re featured in a new documentary about the rise of podcasting. Can you tell us a little bit about it and the experience of being featured in a film?

The Messengers: A Podcast Documentary is a journey through the modern world of podcasting uncovering the magic behind why podcasters do what they do. The filmmakers came to Miami and followed me around LA during E3 2016. It was an awesome experience from the first recording. The film is coming to iTunes in August. You can learn more about the documentary here: http://themessengersdoc.com

Q: You recently took a trip to the Dominican Republic and met gamers from Santo Domingo. What is that community like, and what stories from the community did you discover?

The gaming community in Santo Domingo is huge! There's a lot of gamers even during the days when I used to live there back in the 90's. During my interview with the local gamers, they spoke about some of the issues they encounter over there. Consoles are just too expensive because of the taxes and because of the region it is hard to download a game using their local account. They end up having family or friends send them games from the states or they have to create an account that says US in order for them to buy a game digitally.  They also face the issue of internet speeds not being the greatest over there.  People inspired to be gaming developers need our help in Dominican Republic. There's no resources for them to learn more about developing games on the island so they have to rely on the internet. 

Q: We saw an Instagram post of some people from the DR playing the Switch for the first time. What were their impressions?

I took it to a local gaming bar in Santo Domingo. The Nintendo Switch got a lot of attention from the gamers and I let them to try it out. They loved it!  A lot of them are planning to buy it soon with Mario Kart 8 or Zelda.

Q: What advice do you have for an up-and-coming podcaster?

When you podcast, don't look at your stats. Make sure to listen once the podcast goes live. Learn from your mistakes, edit and the most important thing is have fun. Make it easier for someone to find your content. Don't just depend on our platform. Be everywhere (iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher Tunein Radio, etc.).

Q: Where do you see the future of video game podcasting going, and how has the success of podcasts such as “Serial” raised awareness of this media style?

I think more people are going to discover podcasting thanks to music streaming services like Spotify and Pandora. iTunes was the first one to add podcasts into their platform 12 years ago. Nowadays, people don't have a lot of time to listen to the radio live. Listeners can download a podcast anytime they want. Just like on demand. One thing I've learned from my trip to Dominican Republic is everyone knows about YouTube. We can do the same with podcasts. Podcasters need to educate others on how to stream or download a podcast. The problem is a lot of Podcasters think the whole world knows about it. We're never going to grow if we don't educate others about this media.

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