Looking to get into crypto or NFT Gaming? We caught up with Spencer James, the Senior Product Manager at Gino’s Big Town Chef about his route into the crypto industry. He shares the key lessons he’s learned and what qualities make for crypto career success.
James began buying Bitcoin in 2017 before investing in Ethereum and alt coins. After discovering DeFi products such as PancakeSwap he became more intrigued about the potential of Web3. Now a central figure in the Big Town team, he is helping shape the future of NFT gaming.
Away from his computer, James likes to relax on long runs listening to house music mixes and can occasionally be found practising his life-long hobby of clay pigeon shooting. We catch up with him in his central London office and ask where it all began…
NFT Plazas: What was the first crypto trade you made and did you know then where it would lead?
Spencer James: The first crypto trade I made was buying Bitcoin back in 2017. I remember in the 2017 bull run there was such high demand for new user accounts that many centralised exchanges stopped onboarding new users. The result of this was that I ended up creating accounts with small exchanges I’d never heard of before with some slightly daunting KYC [Know Your Customer] processes.
I remember once doing KYC in a video call and having to hold my passport up to my camera at different angles whilst a random guy in Germany took screenshots of it. If anyone finds a copy of my passport for sale on the darkweb please do get in touch.
NFT Plazas: What is it about the crypto space that appeals to you? If you weren’t working where you are, doing what you do – what other career could you imagine?
SJ: In Product we talk about the Eureka moment – that moment a user clicks with your product and understands its value. For me, that moment was the first time I connected my MetaMask to a dApp; I suddenly understood the power of Web3 and that moment led me to my current work in crypto.
If I wasn’t working in Product or in crypto, I think I’d still be in software but either working as a UX designer, software engineer, or maybe in software sales.
NFT Plazas: While involved with Gino’s Big Town Chef, what has been your favourite experience?
SJ: I recently had a user reach out to me through our Telegram group and thank us for creating one of our features. He’d previously won an NFT in our raffle and just sold it for 2 ETH [approx. $5,600]. He was over the moon! It’s great to be working on a product that has the power to change someone’s life.
NFT Plazas: While working with Gino’s Big Town Chef what are the key lessons you learnt?
SJ: One of the most useful things I’ve learned and applied to my work is Jeff Bezos’ one-way doors and two-way doors analogy. You can only go through a one-way door in one direction, whereas a two-way door allows you to go back and start again if you make a mistake.
When making decisions about the product it’s important to consider if it’s something you can easily undo if it turns out to be wrong (you need a two-way door solution) or something you are confident will work (you can use a one-way door solution). But, if you’re about to go through a one-way door make sure you’ve got the data to back it up.
NFT Plazas: What is more important to thrive in this industry? Great leadership skills, or the ability to intuit future trends?
SJ: They’re both very important but if I had to pick, I’d say that understanding the industry is more important. Business leaders need to skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.
NFT Plazas: The ideologies that underpin Web3 and blockchain suggest a vision of a decentralised technological utopia – do you believe we are moving into an era where big tech loosens its grip or is there still a danger that they could steer the movement to suit their goals?
SJ: I’m definitely someone who believes that the innovation arising from blockchain technology, decentralisation, and DAOs has the potential to continue to disrupt big tech for many years.
However, I also recognise that we are still very early in the technology adoption lifecycle curve; you could argue that we’re still in the early adopters phase. The benefits of decentralisation are not yet well understood by the general public as a whole. Given that, I’d say brands have a massive opportunity to present themselves as the “friendly face of crypto” whilst offering highly centralised products.
NFT Plazas: The crypto space has now expanded far beyond decentralised finance to include collectable NFTs and play-to-earn gaming. What can the rapid changes of the last few years tell us about the future?
SJ: For me, some of the most exciting developments I’ve seen in crypto are the increase in the utility of NFTs. NFTs have evolved from being collectables, to being used for a whole host of different benefits. We’ve seen Damien Hirst sell NFTs which can be exchanged for physical pieces of art. We’re seeing NFTs acting as debentures, granting the holder access to tickets at live sporting events around the world.
We have our own yield-bearing NFTs at Gino’s Big Town Chef, which unlock additional financial benefits to the holders. Then of course, there are all the games utilising NFTs to allow players to transfer rare items out of the game and convert them into real-world assets. My personal prediction is that we’re going to see more and more mainstream game developers utilising blockchain technology to facilitate inter-player asset transfer.
NFT Plazas: How did the idea for Gino’s Big Town Chef first come about?
SJ: The idea to create a farming game has been on our roadmap for sometime now. It actually is the brainchild of our CEO, Pete Wood. His vision is to create a unique play-to-earn, NFT-based online game that puts players’ farming, trading and battling skills to the ultimate test. The project has substantial investment and is well on track to becoming a fully immersive gaming experience like no other.
NFT Plazas: Who is responsible for the complex mythology that underpins the game’s vision and why is that mythology important?
SJ: The Lore is the work of our Co-Founder and CDO, Tom Allison. The Lore paints a vivid picture of the history of Big Town – how it came into existence and grew to be the Mecca of food, where food-lovers from across The Land flock to compete in the race to become Big Town’s most celebrated Chef. It provides the back-story of Mayor Burp – how he led the victorious Townspeople, alongside the Rebel Workers, in the Great Food Fight to save Big Town from Mr. Gloop’s industrial empire. It also introduces us to a myriad of historic and present day characters, with whom we will meet in-game, providing fun and utility along the way.
Mythology and storytelling are at the heart of every great game, think about Zelda, Mario Brothers, Lara Croft. Great mythology and great characters create more immersive gameplay.
NFT Plazas: How do you envision people playing the game when it’s fully launched and how will you generate a return for your investors without compromising your vision?
SJ: The overall concept of the game is to increase your Chef’s XP to the point where you can purchase a Big Town cooking Licence and use it to graduate Next-Gen Chefs. Players increase their XP by competing in cook-off battles, which can be played both as player vs environment (PvE) or player vs player (PvP). The game will initially be available to play on Mac and Windows, with the possibility of iOS and Android apps further down the line.
Blockchain technology is still in its infancy, and staying true to the principles of decentralisation whilst also being subject to the constraints it can currently cause is going to lead to some interesting problems we need to solve if we’re going to deliver on our vision of becoming the Metaverse’s kitchen. We’re confident that if we create a crypto game that is above all else fun to play, the returns will come.
NFT Plazas: What is so important about the upcoming NFT mint and what makes these NFTs unique?
SJ: The upcoming mint will be the first and only opportunity to mint the Genesis Chef NFTs. These first 10,000 Chefs will have superior in-game attributes than all the subsequent seasons of Chefs that players mint in the game. The higher attributes of the Genesis Chefs improves the quality of food the Chef can cook and ultimately translates into higher earning potential for the player.
NFT Plazas:How does the Burp token fit into the game?
SJ: At the moment, users can stake BURP in the Town Hall and earn yield in the form of more BURP. There will also be a variety of ways to use BURP in Gino’s Big Town Chef. It will serve as a reward currency for when players complete seasonal quests or reach the leaderboard. But perhaps most importantly, in-game cooking licences will be purchased using BURP.
NFT Plazas: What advice would you give anyone looking to get into Crypto?
SJ: Working in crypto is great, you get to talk about it all day, which means you won’t bore your friends or family with it! However, working with so many other people who are interested in the space means that you’ll often hear about new coins/NFTs that you can invest in.
It’s important to not get too sucked into every opportunity that comes your way and always make sure that you’re managing your own risk appropriately. In terms of looking to find a role in crypto, I’d recommend doing what I did and going through a specialist crypto recruitment company, it’s a real time saver.
Check out Gino’s Big Town Chef >> Website