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Hempfield grads get Olympic stage doing play-by-play for video game tie-in

Matthew Santoni
| Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, 2:06 p.m.
In this still from a YouTube video, Hempfield natives Mitch Bell and Nick Comito are introduced as the play-by-play announcers for 'Steep: Road to the Olympics,' an official videogame tie-in to the Winter Olympics in South Korea. Bell and Comito flew to Poland to record the tournament finals, which were broadcast before the opening ceremonies.
Ubisoft/International Olympic Committee
In this still from a YouTube video, Hempfield natives Mitch Bell and Nick Comito are introduced as the play-by-play announcers for 'Steep: Road to the Olympics,' an official videogame tie-in to the Winter Olympics in South Korea. Bell and Comito flew to Poland to record the tournament finals, which were broadcast before the opening ceremonies.

Talking about video games at home led two Hempfield Area High School graduates to an Olympic event this month.

Hempfield natives Mitch Bell and Nick Comito were the play-by-play "shoutcasters" for a tournament of "Steep: Road to the Olympics," a licensed video game tie-in that lets players compete in downhill skiing and snowboarding as an expansion to developer Ubisoft's open-world extreme-sports game.

The final, six-person round of the tournament was held in Katowice, Poland, in late January and was broadcast in PyeongChang, South Korea, and online Feb. 7. Ubisoft flew Bell and Comito to Poland for the weekend to do the play-by-play, much as they had when they organized their own tournament and recorded their commentary in January 2017.

Bell, 23, said the pair grew up in Hempfield and became friends when he was in ninth grade and Comito was in sixth grade. When Bell went to college, they kept in touch through online gaming and making YouTube videos. They set up mics to record their gaming sessions and commentary, eventually turning it into the X-Games-style tournament in "Steep" they called the Tartiflette games.

"We've always had that creative side, not just playing the games but trying to find ways to push it forward," said Comito, 21.

They recorded themselves playing the soccer-with-superĀ­cars game Rocket League or used Grand Theft Auto to re-create movie trailers, setting up helicopters and camera cars back before the game's developers included a "director mode" just for making videos, he said.

Their work garnered the attention of Ubisoft, which brought them to the company's headquarters in France in August to play-test "Steep" and talk more about the growing field of Esports and the online broadcasting associated with it. When Ubisoft made its marketing deal with the International Olympic Committee for a tie-in to the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, Bell and Comito were chosen to do play-by-play for the tournament final alongside some veteran Esports broadcasters.

"Our jaws dropped. We were working with professionals, at the table with professionals," Comito said.

"We have cameras in our living rooms; we're used to that kind of stuff, but we're not used to being in front of a crowd of hundreds, on an Olympic stage," Bell said.

The IOC had people at the tournament to make sure all the branding and lingo were correct, Comito said, but it soon became second nature to them. The two had to talk through a total of two hours of play time in their first big broadcasting gig, but their past experience and relationship helped them through it.

"We had no idea what we were doing, no script," Comito said. "But we've been friends for 10 years, so it was so easy just to talk, to bounce off each other."

In addition to the paid trip to Poland, the pair got some Olympics-related merchandise and a major stage for their work. Bell, a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh, and Comito, a music industry and production major at York College of Pennsylvania, said they would continue to make and post videos, though now with more of a focus on play-by-play for Esports events.

Matthew Santoni is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6660, msantoni@tribweb.com or via Twitter @msantoni.

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