Most people know Aaron Atayde from his work as one of the hosts of ESPN 5 Sportscenter, his exciting, contagious energy on the PBA commentary table, or from his stint as radio DJ with Magic 89.9. However, not a lot of people know that Aaron has always been a massive geek as well. Whether it’s squading up with his crew on Apex Legends or Fortnite, running the table in FIFA or nerding out on the latest movies and TV shows, Aaron is a geek through and through, a fact that, though understated, he never shies away from.
As one of the hosts of GG Network’s newest show Geeks and Gamers Guide premiering this Thursday, February 27, Aaron gave us a glimpse into his nerdy side by talking his new show, how video games have influenced his sports career and how FIFA is the king of all sports games, hands down.
Aaron is geeky about many things. He has always loved movies and TV shows, so much so that he took Communications in college because he wanted to know more about what’s behind-the-scenes than in front of it. He also loves music which came hand in hand with his radio career. And of course, there’s his love of sports, especially soccer, football, and basketball.
However, through it all video games have been a consistent part of Aaron’s life, from an early age he fell in love with gaming and that fondness has stayed with him up until this very day.
“I’ve been playing videogames my entire life. My dad started me out playing Duck Hunt and Super Mario. That grew into owning a SEGA Genesis from there it was Super Nintendo, Gameboy PSP, Playstation One, PS2, PS3, and PS4. It’s always been with me along the way. Gaming has been like the thing that has been my constant out of everything, even more than sports, gaming has always been there.”
Aaron recalls that his earliest and fondest memory of games was his deep-seated want for the game Mortal Kombat:
“I was about maybe 6 or 7, There’s no way I was going to get Mortal Kombat, but my mom was like, “what’s that game you like, Mortal Something-something[sic] yeah let’s get that for you” so my mom got me Mortal Kombat. Obviously the coolest thing my mom has ever done for a kid that’s 6-7 year old. That’s definitely one of my favorite videogame memories. “
Later on, he developed a love for RPGs, most notably the Final Fantasy series. He’s quick to call Final Fantasy VII the greatest game of all-time even maintains that FFVIII was an underrated entry in the series.
Obviously, sports games are also a big part of his life because he grew up loving sports.
“I’ve always wanted to play football, whether it was soccer or American football. My mom was so protective of me, I guess she knew that I was not as big and burly as the other kids and I was gonna get beat up playing American football.
“For soccer, I always loved watching it. I loved watching it more than I loved playing it because it’s such a beautiful sport to watch. I think that’s why it translates into my affinity for FIFA.”
Through the years, he’s played all the big contenders in the room as far as sports games are concerned, NBA LIVE, Madden and NBA 2K however, there is only one game that Aaron adamantly considers to be the king of the sports simulation games:
“FIFA is the greatest sports game in the world. If anyone has anything against that you can bring that up with me. It’s the best simulation sports game in the world. NBA 2K is great, I’ll play 2K but if my friends come over, we’re rocking FIFA the entire night.”
Interestingly enough, Aaron adds that his career as a commentator and sports pundit also has its origins tied into his nerdy side:
“Actually, If it wasn’t for 2K or FIFA, I wouldn’t know how to be a commentator for either of those sports. And I do now. So, my friends would come over to my house, when I was just starting my career, we’d turn off the commentary, they would play and I would try to comment on the whole thing. That’s how I trained to get better at my job as a sports commentator.”
Aaron’s geek and sporty sides often intertwine. Here he is dressing up as a Fortnite No Skin for SportsCenter
Aside from FIFA, Aaron has also been hopping around a bunch of different games from Apex Legends and Fortnite, to making progress with his Sekiro playthrough, to his mobile standby, Call of Duty Mobile; All of this, of course, while juggling his various work responsibilities and hosting engagements. The secret to balancing it all out, according to him, is equal parts proper time allotment and having geeky friends.
“I always try to balance work and social life and all that. Luckily my friends play a lot of games as well. So that’s how I’m still able to hang out with my friends whether it’s via voice chat, or they’re actually in my house or we’re squading up in Apex or something like that. I always dedicate some time to play video games or watching some geeky movies that I’ve been trying to rewatch for the 300th time. “
With all his varied interests, from movies to TV and video games, it’s apparent that the common throughline is that Aaron is a fan of engaging stories and expertly told narratives. A trait that goes back to his days in studying production and learning about the best ways to tell a given story.
“I think [stories and narratives] that’s the one thing that I look across the things that I like, that I’m really geeky at and I really fell in love with, it’s because of the storytelling that ensues. Whether it’s storytelling in sports, or storytelling in movies or TV shows, and most especially in videogames. I think that’s also why I love RPGs because of the way that they tell stories.”
Aaron will be co-hosting GG Network’s new show Geeks and Gamer’s Guide or GGG which aims to be an all-inclusive show that’s going to touch the different facets of many different geekdoms. Interestingly, Aaron is not just excited to be part of the show but to also learn from the show as well:
“I’m so excited to not only show and share what I have learned through the years of my geekdom but also learn from a lot of people. I wish I was as good as some of the players that we’re going to feature but instead I’m going to learn how they do it, and learn about lightsabers and all that. I’m so excited to learn more about the things I’m into and dabble in things that I don’t know yet.”
When it comes to Geeks and Gamers Guide, Aaron wants to spirit of the show to be conversational, like a dialogue between all its moving parts, the producers, his co-host Lyka and even the fans as well:
“I’m so excited when I had a meeting with the producers. The first thing that they said was that they wanted us to be part of the segment’s thought process on how we want It to be made. Also if anyone out there also has ideas, we don’t want it to be like we’re telling you guys everything. We’re here talking to you guys and we want you guys to talk to us. Let us know what you want to happen on the show and what you want to see as well. “
“And I think that’s what’s going to make the show reach that next level If we’re all just one big community. It’s not a dictation, it’s a conversation”
Aaron getting acquainted with the GG Network set
Geeks and Gamers Guide will feature a bunch of different segments that will be littered throughout the course of the show. Aaron is especially excited about Patch Notes, which will dive into the nitty-gritty of a game’s latest patches to try to get the leg up in the playing field.
“I’m excited about Patch Notes because I’m one of the weird people who actually read patch notes. I always try to look for different ways to one-up the competition. If there’s like a patch note on Apex I go in there and read like what’s been buffed and what’s been nerfed and all that. Am I not [going to be] using the G7 scout anymore, I need to know these things. Those are the things that I love.”
As a little preview of what to expect from the show, I went through some of the expected segments and tried to pick Aaron’s brain about them. Here’s how the conversation went:
With Patch Notes being all about the tips and tricks that can give you the advantage against the competition, can you give us some tried and tested Aaron Atayde strats?
“ I’ll stick to what I’m best at, I can honestly say I’m pretty good at FIFA so I’m going to stick there. So, top of the box, right where the semi-circle is you go with a finesse shot far post, that’ll hit about 60% of the time and if you get the timing right, that’s the game-breaker right there.“
“Apex Legends, I’m an R99 guy and match it up with maybe a Wingman even though they nerfed it a little bit and it’s still viable. Or I go with a Peace Keeper with an R99 that’s still a good way to go.”
From wins to fails, the segment Loot Box, collects the clips from gamers from all over the nerdysphere, what is your most awesome gaming moment?
“So I was playing Fortnite. I was playing with some friends and I threw an impulse grenade up into a pump shotgun that killed 2 people at the same time. It was sick! It was one of the sickest moments I’ve ever had playing competitive gaming.”
On the flip side of the coin, do you have an epic fail that you really, really botched it on?
“Oh yeah, there are a ton. So, me and my friends do this thing in FIFA called Pro League and anytime anyone scores a goal on you you take a shot (of alcohol). Every foul you take a shot, every offside, you take a shot. If you have a goal that was out of this world or golazo you take a shot.”
“So there was one time it was my birthday and all my friends came over and we’re having fun. My friends messed around with the difficulty when they were playing against me. They were on an easier difficulty and I was on world class and they were smashing me. I had no idea what was going on and I was taking shot after shot after shot. I was like ‘what the heck is happening’. I lost one match 11-1 and I couldn’t believe it. True enough, later on, they admitted to me that they were messing around and I passed out on my couch, literally smashed.”
The segment App App and Away is all about cool and quirky apps that make our lives easier or provide a little entertainment in our pockets, If we looked up the stats on your phone, which are the most used apps?
“Reddit. I’m a big Redditor. Youtube as well. I love content that’s on Youtube. I love Reddit because its a place where nobody knows who I am, I can say whatever I want, I can lurk. I really am a lurker. I don’t really post all that much.”
“Probably the most used app I have is Telegram, because of my friends and because of work but in terms of gaming and stuff, Call of Duty Mobile is on there, that gets me going.”
“Also every morning, before I get going, I have this app called Puzzle Page. Every day it gives me pages of random brain teasers and stuff like that so I can get my brain away from all the other junk that is out there in the world. So it gives me my sudoku thing, a crossword or word search or some random stuff just to get me going while I’m having my coffee and the NBA going on.
Above: Aaron’s modern day take on the classic morning routine
“Instead of newspapers I have this to work my brain with my morning coffee and not be all sludge for the whole day.”
Finally, I had to ask him, as someone who’s known for conducting amazing interviews with the biggest stars, which interview stands out as the best? He had this to say:
“The one that I hold near and dear to my heart because of what has happened, it had to be Kobe Bryant. It was great talking to him.”
“In all honesty, I’ve talked to him like 3 or 4 times and just makes it in a way that it doesn’t really feel like you’re interviewing him. It feels like you guys are having a beer and sitting down and just having a conversation. The connection that I felt, obviously I’m just some random dude and he didn’t know me but the way that he made it feel like we were friends for a while, I always cherished that. He’s the Mamba, dude. He’s the best, that’s the best that’ll always stand out.”
Catch more of Aaron Atayde on Geeks and Gamers Guide which premieres on GG Network Facebook this Thursday, February 27th.
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