A Passion for Gaming and Community: Latinx Creators Paving the Way for the Next Generation in Gaming — Q&A: Danny Peña

Danny 01

Tell us about your journey as a Latinx in the gaming industry.

It all goes back to my grandmother in the 80s. She gave me my first console, and from that moment on, I was a gamer. In 2001, I launched an internet radio show, the precursor to the podcast, that was all about gaming. At the time, people would go to MP3.com to download and stream music, and it occurred to me that I could use the platform to upload my own content, and sure enough, it worked and allowed me to launch my very first internet radio show.

Later that same year, Microsoft hosted a media event in New York City for the launch of Xbox – “Xbox Unleashed” – and invited gamers to attend. With my video camera and tape recorder in hand, I made it to the event and interviewed gamers as well as Xbox executives. Following that event, I was contacted by Microsoft to attend another launch event, and this time, I was asked to play video games alongside Bill Gates. It was such an incredible experience, and I knew I had found my passion.

When I first started, I was the only Latinx or person of color whenever I attended gaming events, and I had to work even harder just to stand out. I had to build my community from scratch. Back then, it meant showing up at all the events, interacting with people, making those connections, building those relationships, making a case for the fact that gaming isn’t just for kids and Latinxs had a place there too. It’s been so rewarding to see this all take shape and to be celebrating the 17th anniversary of my show, Gamertag Radio, this year.

How important is diversity to you in the world of gaming?

It’s so important and something that I have always been very vocal about. Not just for the gamer community but especially the games themselves, it’s incredible to see how the industry has evolved and continues to break new barriers. My Dominican background and upbringing are a huge part of my life and story, and when ‘Far Cry 6’ was released, it really resonated with me.  It shows the influence that Latinxs and persons of color have in game development, and it’s just the beginning.

But when I think about diversity, it’s not just about Latinxs, but everyone feeling a sense of belonging and acceptance. The community I have built is inclusive and intended for everyone. When I was inducted into the Podcast Hall of Fame in 2015, I brought my community along with me. There I was, on the red carpet, with my mom by my side, and my community. I always want to make them feel like they are part of this journey, and when I accepted the honor, I had to thank my community first, which is comprised of people of all races. It’s that sense of camaraderie that makes gaming so special.

Danny 02

How have you been able to help other Latinxs in the gaming community? Why is this so important to you?

Latinxs need to help each other, and it’s a community that is naturally inclined to do so. Of all the things I have had a chance to do, I most enjoy it when I’m able to speak to young people and share my story with them. Gaming was an incredible outlet for me that allowed me to be more creative and create my own space.

I maintain very close ties to the DR, and when I went back a few years ago, I worked with a local organization called CDDV (Comunidad Dominicana de Desarrolladores de Videojuegos), which provides free workshops for game developers. The community said they felt left out in the industry, but despite their limited resources, they’re doing remarkable things. I want to inspire them, get them interested in development, content creation, and give them the support and encouragement that I didn’t get when I was younger.

To give back to my community and help others on their journeys, I also made a documentary about my life, “Gamertag Radio: A Podcast Story.” Here they can hear me firsthand as I talk about my childhood, how my career unfolded and what’s motivated me. I wanted to make that personal connection and hopefully inspire the next generation of Latino gamers and beyond.