Everybody Loves Yannis

The Vortex Competition is a game design contest run by Bill Marshall, one of the minds behind the Toronto International Film Festival, his wife Sari Ruda, and assorted others. The website claims (spuriously) that this is the fifth anniversary of the competition. According to the site itself, the competition has only been run twice before, in 2007 and 2006; the other years focussed on game-related seminars, round tables and panel discussions. The 2007 competition, which i entered while still an employee of a Canadian broadcaster, unfortunately suffered from tremendous disorganization. i didn’t hold out much hope for this year, until He showed up.


That’s right, He – none other than Yannis Mallat, Chief Executive Officer of Ubi Soft Montreal. Yannis, with his lush beard and flowing mane of silky shoulder-length shampoo commercial hair, riding on a cloud against a blinding host of heavenly flood lights, to the blast of a thousand heralding trumpets. Yannis – with an olive branch in his left hand and a Wii controller in his right, a halo of light framing his face. Yannis Mallat, draped in the finest gowns, with sandals of bronze and a crown made of tickles. This is the very saviour who’s bringing his multi-bazillion dollar juggernaut game studio into Toronto some time soon, his way made smooth by a path paved with hundred dollar bills, courtesy of the Ontario Government. Yannis! Angels sing! Yannis! Elderly women lose all bowel control! Yannis! And every game developer in town swoons at the mere mention of his name.


This is actually a picture of Yanni, not Yannis, but it fits my description better.

Stop: Mallat Time

The Vortex Competition landed Yannis Mallat as one of their top-tier judges, and the excitement is palpable. And disturbing. Palpably disturbing.

Since the Vortex “grand” prize of $2500 is nothing to write home about (and indeed, a drop in the bucket of the many thousands of buckets it takes to fund game development these days), many of the people i’ve spoken with about the competition say the same thing “i don’t care about winning – i care about the networking. i get to present my game concept to Yannis Mallat. You know – the Ubi Soft CEO? And if he likes it, well … this could be my big break.”

For serious. Grown men are actually saying this to me. And not just idealistic, adorably naive students – i’m talking grown-up professionals who should know better. There seems to be this sense that Yannis Mallat, who heads a company packed with video game professionals, all of whom have at least ten game ideas that they’re dying to make – that this guy is going to show up to a low-rent competition like Vortex, watch a presentation, and say “This guy. This guy’s our next STAR.”


Seriously – when did the Ontario game industry turn into an episode of Fame?

i wish i could say that i hate to burst everyone’s bubble, because i actually really enjoy bursting bubbles – especially big, ridiculous and implausible bubbles like this one. Yannis Mallat is not judging the Vortex Competition so that he can fill a senior-level game developer position at Ubi Soft. The 2007 competition felt a lot like the first round of American Idol, except that it was filled with people who were too retarded to even make the first round of American Idol.


This desire to “get discovered” betrays sort of a disturbing hidden desire among the game developers in this town. As video games resemble Hollywood more and more, these folks seem to think they can hang out at Schwab’s Pharmacy (Vortex) and look pretty (have a good game idea), when in walks Cecil B. DeMille (Yannis Mallat) who sees that they have that spark – that je ne sais quoi – and he signs them to a multi-million dollar ($80k/year) contract at Paramount Pictures (Ubi Soft).

Of course, we all know how that Hollywood dream really ends up. Some pretty young thing hops a bus from Idaho to Los Angeles in the hopes of being discovered and making it big, and she ends up doing porn.

Here’s where my analogy breaks down. i’m not too sure what the video game industry equivalent of porn is. Gold farming? Interactive bar-top poker games? Something like that.


Does your Mom know the kinds of games you’re making in the big city?

i hate to say all this. i really do. But it just blows my mind that everyone i’ve spoken with who’s entering this competition thinks they’ll be hob-nobbing with Yannis, his buddies, and a couple of loose broads over martinis at the Boom Boom Room after the competition is over. It’s like getting tickets to a Rolling Stones concert and thinking you’re going to go backstage and meet Mick and Keef, and they’re gonna do a few lines with you and listen to your demo and set you up with a sweet record deal. It … holy crap. i can’t express this to you. It boggles my already mostly-boggled mind.

Back to Reality

Here’s what i think is a healthy outlook for the Vortex Competition, and one that a sane person can hinge his hopes on. You’re going to go there, and you’ll have ten minutes to speak. This is a golden opportunity to practice, practice, practice, distill your game idea in a VERY tight presentation, and have it evaluated by someone other than Mom. And keep in mind that you won’t be evaluated solely on the merits of your game concept. Your manner of speaking, your grooming, your preparedness, your graphic design (if you choose to use slides) – in short, your personality and work ethic and branding – will all be judged with far more scrutiny than your game idea.


No, actually. i DON’T want to hear your game idea.

i dare say, your game idea is not what will make you stand out. Your ability to present, your market research and budgeting legwork, your fact-based revenue projections – all of these are part and parcel of an excellent and prize-worthy presentation. Any schmuck can have a game idea – and that’s exactly what you’ll see at the competition: a parade of schmucks with game ideas. The extra preparation, practice and personality you infuse into your presentation will set the doers apart from the dreamers.

And if you put in that required amount of effort – that level of hard work, effort, intelligence and professionality – then maybe at that networking event after the competition, Yannis Mallat will come to you?

But seriously, don’t bet on it.

11 thoughts on “Everybody Loves Yannis

  1. Tony Walsh

    So I guess you’re not entering then. We are, because we have more than a game idea. We have an actual, playable game — there is a prototype option. We are entering because it isn’t a lot of work for us to do so, and because any win is a good win, and because winning prototypes will be featured on the City of Toronto web site for a year. You can’t buy that kind of endorsement.

    I appreciate your disdain for Vortex, it’s entrants, and participants, but… dude… why harsh on the developers. I ain’t no shmuck.

    1. Ryan

      Tony – Oh, you know me. Of COURSE we’re entering. Why would i miss out on the opportunity to complain about it later? :)

      We’re entering an actual, playable prototype as well. i chose that option because i figured most people would vie for the concept stream – it’s less work.

      You might take offense to me calling the entrants “schmucks”, but seriously dude – i call em like i see em. Were you there in 2007? It was amateur hour. And the whole debacle had the stink of the IADT on it.

      i see that this year, there seem to be many more pros entering the competition. You’re in there, we’re in there, and i think Decode might be entering something. Hopefully the bar will be raised this year.

      Do you have details on the Toronto thing? How do you know that multiple games will be on the site? i thought it was a one-winner thing too. And do the games have to have anything to do with Toronto? We can actually pull this off with our game.

      We’re entering for exactly the same reaons you are – not because the prize is great, and certainly not because the event is well-organized, but because it’s a good opportunity to toot our company’s horn in a press release if anything comes of it.

      …AND because Yannis Mallat from Ubi-Soft will discover us and pay us millions of dollars to develop a game for him.

      – Ryan

  2. Jim McRyanYouCrazy

    “You’re dangerous… ’cause you’re honest ”

    While I may not always agree with your strong opinions,
    I am glad that you have the courage to keep posting them.
    They sometimes make me think.

    One of the primary reason I am entering Vortex is indeed Yannis Mallat.
    My thinking goes like this: It’s my only chance to ever meet the man.
    Which strikes me as better than never meeting him.
    Would I pay $100 to have supper with Yannis? Probably.
    Luckily, Toronto has already locked him in
    so when we embarrass ourselves Ubisoft can’t leave.

    In many ways, Vortex is like TOJam (and maybe even GDC).
    The event itself is beside the point.
    i.e. Anyone can make a game by themselves, they don’t need TOJam
    It’s all about meeting people and getting motivated,
    and helping the amateurs/newbies around you
    (something you’ve always done you big Teddy bear you).
    While I hate the word, some people call this networking.

    Final Thought: I can’t remember.
    I was was interrupted not by a cow,
    but a cat with severe diarrhea.

    “Who’s gonna ride your wild horses?
    Who’s gonna drown in your blue sea?
    Who’s gonna ride your wild horses?
    Who’s gonna fall at the foot of thee?”

    1. Ryan

      Jim – agreed. The pitch practice and networking (with people OTHER than Yannis) are hopefully worth the cash and effort.

  3. Tony Walsh

    Whaaaat?? Decode is entering? Not impressed.

    I mistyped about the City of Toronto feature–It’s one game as far as I know.

    Completely agree that Vortex is organized terribly. They just rewarded lateness by extending their submission deadline until next Tuesday. Lame.

    1. Ryan

      Tony – why are you cheesed that Decode is entering?

      i just got the email about the submission deadline extension – when i applied, i didn’t see anything on the form indicating where or how i was to submit my concept, so i didn’t have mine in yet. Not sure why payment/registration and concept submission needed to be on two separate forms …? That’s how i missed it.

      – Ryan

  4. Jean-Guy Niquet

    Unlike some others I want to go to see Tony Walsh. I heard he is going to be at Vortex this year. If only I could find a way to impress him. Hopefully I can learn more about his marketing ideas of using the City of Toronto site to showcase our game. Like everyone else I often browse the City of Ottawa’s site for the latest games coming out and I’m glad our fine city is finally getting on board.

    Man, I really hope I get face time with Tony Walsh. Impressing him would have made it all worth it.

  5. Tony Walsh

    Sorry to break your heart Jean-Guy, but I won’t be at Vortex, I’m presenting at DIG London and Doc/Fest Sheffield that week.

    Ryan, will chat with you in person. At GameON, if you’re going. Good luck at Vortex, wish I could see your pitch.

  6. Lemon

    Get a life. I suspect you are destined to life long failure by your cynicism. People who see your reports such as this will remember – and close doors in your face without you every knowing it. Immature and just plain dumb.


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