By Will Brown
Gino D’Acampo is famed for his recipe books, travel shows, and appearances on This Morning. Now, in a somewhat unexpected announcement, he has turned his hand towards a new medium: Gino’s Big Town Chef, an online cooking game. But it is 2022. You cannot just have an online game. Instead, Big Town Chef claims to be an “immersive and engaging 3D Metaverse environment”, complete with cryptocurrencies and NFTs. Big Town Chef is currently heading into pre-production, with aspirations for a full launch at the end of 2022, which Gino describes as like “counting down the days to Christmas”.
It’s one of many upcoming Play-to-Earn games that has been announced recently, a style of game that allows users to earn tokens with real-world value. Whilst there has been an influx of them recently, the style has been around for a few years. Founded in 2017, Axie Infinity is commonly cited as one of the earliest examples. It has since resulted in some serious profits for players, with a virtual plot of land selling for US $2.5 million last November. Given this current deluge of Play-to-Earn games, you might be forgiven for thinking that Gino’s Big Town Chef is simply an attempt to cash in on the current NFT hype. But, speaking to Palatinate, Gino D’Acampo insisted that this was not the case.
“Our main focus is to make a game which is enjoyable to play, not a crypto tool shoved into a game.”
Nevertheless, such crypto tools are at the heart of Big Town Chef. Players will plant NFT seeds that will grow into ingredients to be either traded or used in recipes for ‘Cook Off Battles’, where chefs compete to create their own dishes — an aspect that Gino is looking forward to, claiming that his Insalata di Riso will take some beating. It will run on the cryptocurrency $BURP, which is used for the trading platform CoinBurp. The same man, Peter Wood, is CEO of both Big Town Chef and CoinBurp, hence this collaboration.
Wanting to create his own game for some time, it was Gino’s son, Luciano, who persuaded his father to investigate NFT gaming. He admitted that he didn’t fully understand it to begin with, but took a liking to the accessibility of it, pointing to the amount of NFT artists whose work wouldn’t have otherwise been seen in the traditional art market. Now convinced that “NFTs are the future of gaming”, he doesn’t think it to be a passing obsession:
“I wouldn’t get involved in, or put time in, something that I believed was a fad”.
It goes without saying that the use of NFTs has proven controversial in the last year. Big Town Chef operates using Polygon, which claims to be an environmentally sustainable network. It’s the same network that was favoured by the WWF last year when they created a set of NFTs to support their conservation, which was received with significant backlash. However, much has changed since the WWF’s controversy. “Anyone who understands how proof-of-stake blockchains (like Polygon) work knows that they use far less energy”, said Gino.
Whilst Gino is correct that proof-of-stake blockchains use much less energy, it’s worth noting that the Polygon network operates through Ethereum — another blockchain that cannot claim to be as environmentally friendly. Speaking to Palatinate, Dr Carsten Sørensen, associate professor in Digital Innovation at LSE, clarified Polygon’s situation: “Proof of work blockchains such as Bitcoin and Ethereum […] are very energy consuming. By implication so are the layer-2 networks building on Ethereum, such as Polygon.” But Dr Sørensen notes that Ethereum is “currently transitioning to the much more energy-efficient proof-of-stake”, referring to current plans to alter the way in which the blockchain functions. Ethereum claims the change could result in a 99.95% reduction in energy consumption.
But regardless of what Ethereum does, it seems that Polygon will be environmentally friendly regardless. According to recently announced plans, the company intends to become carbon-negative later this year. Every transaction will be accounted for and offset, and this includes those within Big Town Chef. But carbon offsets have proven a problematic solution, with a 2017 study from the European Commission finding that 85% of offsets failed to reduce emissions. Whilst it remains to be seen how effective Polygon’s solution will be, Gino accepts that not everyone will be swayed: “You will never make everyone happy”.
Various high-profile memes (e.g. Disaster Girl, Charlie Bit My Finger) were sold last year as NFTs. Gino has had his fair share of meme-worthy moments, and I felt I had to ask Gino if he’d ever consider minting an NFT out of his viral response to Holly Willoughby’s cooking tips (“If my grandmother had wheels, she would have been a bike!”) on This Morning:
“Haha, I love it! Although maybe not for Big Town […] I’m not sure I want to see people riding my grandmother around the piazza”
Image: Gino’s Big Town Chef