Andy Cortez has blazed a trail for Mexican American gamers looking to get into YouTube content creation or video game development. In an exclusive interview with Dexerto to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, he retold how he made it from the deep south of Texas to having his face plastered in New York’s Time Square.
Many aspiring creators may think they have what it takes to be an internet personality, but their background and where they live is holding them back. And that was the case for Andy Cortez, a community college student in his late twenties on a path to becoming yet another educator in the Rio Grande Valley.
However, as many already know, Cortez’s creative passions led him down a different path. One that would see him making it to art school, working in game development, and eventually joining the cast and crew of Kinda Funny.
But he wouldn’t stop there. The Mexican American content creator is also growing his own community on Twitch with the goal of making people laugh, and making viewers with a similar Hispanic background feel right at home.
How Andy Cortez found his way into gaming
Before Cortez became known as a comedic gaming journalist for Kinda Funny, he started his creative journey in Austin, Texas in an Adobe Illustrator class at a community college. But one day, his teacher asked to stay after class and urged him to join a real art school.
This was a moment that changed the course of Andy’s life. He ended up going to an art school, falling in love with game art, and honing his artistic abilities beyond his already impressive talents.
He’d then work in game development for three years while indulging in content from the Kinda Funny network. Cortez would draw fan art for the group followed by a t-shirt design which led to Kinda Funny asking if he could create more tee designs for them.
Cortez stated, “They always liked the talent that I had for art and the passion that I had for them as a company and the community. And then I started making silly videos on the internet and they were like ‘oh! You’re funny, too. You’re entertaining as well, we want to hire you.’ and this is where I’ve been since 2017.”
Cortez’s side hustle as a Twitch streamer
But Cortez doesn’t just create content for the Kinda Funny audience. Inspired by his friend Ray Narvaez (formerly of Achievement Hunter), Cortez began streaming on Twitch as a side hustle.
“I’m lucky to work with Kind of Funny Games. We have a built-in audience that wasn’t primed to watch somebody streaming on Twitch. Our audience was primarily podcast listeners, and they listened to reviews.
“When I first started off, I was really motivated to have a side hustle that I could make some money off of. And then it kind of got really addicting cause I realized it was such a cool outlet to entertain and make people laugh and have something to do on the side.”
But beyond being entertaining, Cortez found ways to include his art and game development backgrounds into his streams. “I thought ‘how can I include this other creative side of things and kind of merge it with gaming?’ I found a lot of people like when I do stupid overlays like my mouth on Link’s body.
“That started picking up steam and people would show up to see whatever the hell I was doing that week. It became this instant satisfaction knowing that you were making people laugh in that moment.”
From the Deep South to San Francisco
Growing up in the Rio Grande Valley, as close to the border of Texas and Mexico as you can get, it wasn’t common for people in that area to make a living from video games. But luckily, Cortez’s support structure helped him achieve his dreams of turning gaming into a career.
“I am so fortunate to have parents that believed in me and at no point did they ever try to shut down those dreams. They knew how expensive it was going to be and that it was going to be a lot of student loans, but they always kind of believed in that kid who was winning art classes in high school.
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“They thought it was really cool that I was getting into game development. And when I got my first game development job they were like ‘oh sh*t! Now you’re gonna be working on video games. That’s awesome.’
“It was a lot more supportive than what I would have ever expected just based on the way media tries to portray that sort of thing.”
He went on to explain that his transition into the media side of gaming felt “inevitable” and that his parents weren’t surprised when he told them he would be leaving behind game development to work for Kinda Funny.
Making his audience feel right at home
When Dexerto asked what moment of his career he was most proud of, having his face in New York Times Square for Twitch’s promotion of Hispanic Heritage Month 2021 was at the top of his list. He stated, “That was some of the craziest sh*t that didn’t really set in until several weeks later.”
And Cortez loves being an inspiration for fellow people of color. “It’s been really awesome to be in this field and whenever I get to go to a live event and a person of color walks up to me and is like ‘hey man, it is so cool to see a fellow Mexican American succeeding in that space.’ that’s always insanely inspiring to me.
“Representation matters, and you don’t know representation matters until you see it. You’re meant to think that this is how media looks. Growing up, it was always white. That’s just how it looked, and I didn’t think that it was meant to look any different.
“It’s weird that you can not see the wrong in that as a kid. Until you grow up and realize ‘oh yeah, what is wrong with this? Why has it been like that?’ Honestly, it wasn’t until I saw the movie Coco that I was like ‘Holy sh*t! This is what it feels like. I relate to so much of this.
“I didn’t understand what it meant to be represented until I felt represented. It was awesome to see that and to now know that I can play a tiny part in that and make people feel at home and welcomed.”
He found comfort in using Spanish slang on stream, despite a feeling of potentially alienating viewers who didn’t come from a similar background.
“I watch tons of streamers that use their own pieces of language from their backgrounds, and it never alienates me so why am I worried about that?
“I love when people from backgrounds similar to mine are able to recognize little things that I inject here and there, and it kind of makes them feel at home.”
In closing, he offered a bit of advice for those who dream of turning gaming into a career. “Don’t be a d*ck. Just be nice, be cool, be chill. You don’t have to be the best at what you do. As long as you’re decent at it and you’re really easy to work with you’re gonna go far.”