Making it Reign in Overwatch: Esports Athlete Andrej ‘Babybay’ Francisty

Andrew Hayward
Games Blizzard
Games Blizzard Overwatch
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Amongst the early crop of Overwatch League stars, Andrej ‘Babybay’ Francisty stood out as one of the most dynamic and charismatic personalities in the league. The fan-favorite DPS (damage-dealing) player started on the San Francisco Shock. Amidst an abundance of talent on the team, Babybay found himself on the bench for a large chunk of season one.

Partway through the 2019 season, the Shock traded Babybay to expansion team Atlanta Reign; giving the pro a secure starting position and a new lease on life in the league. The fans have followed Babybay to Atlanta. A late-season surge saw the Reign go 7-0 in Stage 4 and make statement wins along the way, including beating the Shock in the first round of the playoffs.

We caught up with Babybay to talk about how his earlier career in free-to-play shooter CrossFire primed him for Overwatch esports success, the feeling of seeing thousands of fans cheering his team onstage, and why he must have a banana before every match.

2019-07-06 / Photo: Tonya McCahon For Blizzard Entertainment

What inspired you to become an esports athlete?

Originally, I wasn’t even really into video games at all. I was a hockey player my whole life, since I was four. I remember my dad got Halo on the original Xbox. When he would go on business trips, I started playing Halo behind his back and getting really good. Around the time that Halo 2 came out, I was a little bit older and I was actually competing at GameStop tournaments and winning against adults.

At that point, I didn’t know that I would be an esports athlete. High school was when I was like “Oh, I can actually make something out of this.”

How did you choose your in-game name?

Everyone keeps asking me and I’m gonna stick to what I’ve been saying: It’s an Ancient Chinese secret. I can’t tell anybody. I like to leave people always wondering.

2019-08-24 - Overwatch League 2019 - LA Valiant Homestand / Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

Was there a moment that you realized that you were truly elite in Overwatch?

My whole amateur career, I knew I was pretty good, but I didn’t know how I stacked up against everybody in the world. All of the sudden, I was in college in Chicago and the Shock contacted me. My head coach from the Atlanta Reign was on the Shock at that time, and he contacted me and said, “Hey, we want you on our team. Let me fly you out.”

It became real for me at that point. I was like: “Wow, this is crazy. This is it. I actually made it.”

I always doubted myself, but I think that made me better. It always made me keep working hard, and then I finally got it.

Do you have a favorite memory from competition?

Yeah, I have a lot of favorites, but the newest one is from this past season. I was traded from the Shock to the Reign, which was a good trade on both halves. I actually got to play my old team in the first round of the playoffs and we actually beat them! They ended up winning the championship. That’s one of my favorite memories.

Overwatch League 2019 Season2019-07-06 / Photo: Ben Pursell For Blizzard Entertainment

Do you have any kind of go-to move or strategy in the game?

I don’t think there’s something crazy that I’m doing that no one else can do. When I get in a game, I have a lot of confidence . I think that extends to my teammates, and that I’m able to ease their nerves a bit. I’m a leader type, and I try to control the mental aspect of the game for my team; if we’re losing or winning. I try to make sure everyone is calm and in the right mindset to win games.

Can you talk about being a pro CrossFire player before you were into Overwatch?

After Halo, in high school, I found this free-to-play game called CrossFire. It was a similar scenario to what happened with Overwatch League. I was 15 years old, just playing it for fun, and then all of a sudden out of nowhere, this team contacts me. They were like, “Hey, we want to fly you out to New York Comic-Con to compete in this tournament, and if we win, we go to China.”

I was 15 at the time, so I was like “You guys are BS-ing me. That’s not going to happen, there’s no way.” And They said, “No, we already bought you your hotel and ticket and stuff.” I ended up going there and we ended up winning. The next thing I know, I’m going to China. I just remember my parents were like, “No, there’s no way. You’re not going.” My dad and mom thought it was all a sham, but then my dad ended up coming with me to China, and then it all became real at that point.

I was able to compete onward in that game for years. I went to seven international events, like all over the world: Brazil, all over Asia, I’ve been to Korea as well. It was cool.

2019-09-06 - Overwatch League 2019 Season / Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

 Did you follow esports before you started competing professionally?

 I started getting into it in high school. After I became popular in that CrossFire game, I started getting into the realm a little bit more. I started watching games like Counter-Strike and tournaments on Twitch, and I started streaming a little bit around that time as well. 

I used to watch the Halo tournaments all the time. I was really into that whole thing. 

Overwatch League 2019 Season2019-07-05 / Photo: Ben Pursell For Blizzard Entertainment

Did you have any favorite player or team in Halo?

Mine is probably everyone’s favorite team, but I liked Str8 Rippin. There was this guy named Tsquared, and always looked up to him because he was killing it in the game. He was a leader as well, and that’s the type of person I’ve always been. I looked up to him big-time.

As a pro player, how have you tried to give back to fans who support you?

I definitely show my love every single time I have an interview, or anytime I get any time on-screen. I always say in my interviews, “Thank you guys so much.” Because without the fans, there would be none of this. There would be nobody watching, there would be nobody supporting anybody.

I’ve gone through some rough times in my career, and everybody knows that. I was benched for a little bit, and then I came back a starter. I got traded and was a starter again. My fans have followed me through all of that, and I appreciate it so much. It just helps out so much.

How does it feel to be a part of something as big as the Overwatch League?

You don’t really feel it until you’re on the stage. You look out into the crowd and see all of these people sitting there watching you play, and know they’re there to support you. I remember the Atlanta homestand was a huge realization for me like, “Damn, this thing is huge. It’s big.”

We’re onstage and there’s three sets of rows in different elevations, a stacked crowd all wearing our jerseys and supporting us. Seeing that, I was like, “This is unreal.” We were getting nervous! We were like, “Holy shit, we can’t lose this! We gotta do this for our fans.”

I think that was the realization that this is very big, and it’s going to keep getting bigger.

2019-09-06 - Overwatch League 2019 Season / Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

What are you most excited about with next season’s move to homestand weekend and traveling between cities? 

I’m definitely excited to be able to interact with all different types of fans everywhere. I’m happy that we’re able to go to everybody’s city, and even international cities. Before, everything was based out of L.A. Not everybody can buy a ticket out to L.A. and afford a hotel room and stay there for a weekend to watch games. It’s a lot of money, you know? The fact that we’re able to bring the show on the road, I think that’s amazing.

Do you have any sort of superstitions or rituals that you do before you compete?

I have to have tea in the morning when I wake up on game day, and I have to do my aim training exercise for at least an hour. And then for some reason, I have to eat a banana. I don’t know why, but I have this thing where, if I don’t eat the banana, I’m not going to be confident in myself. I don’t know what’s up with the banana, dude. The banana has the power.

What do you love the most about the esports community?

I just love that it’s people from all over, and it doesn’t matter who you are, it doesn’t matter what you look like. We’re all here doing the same thing, and sharing the same interests. We’re all passionate about gaming, and we love to do it. I think it’s just great that we’re able to connect. The fact that we all share the same interests and we can be available for each other, it’s pretty cool.

Andrew Hayward