Overwatch League Interview – Babybay, Offense For San Francisco Shock
Andrej "Babybay" Francisty is a jack-of-all-trades player who brings a considerable amount of firepower to the San Francisco Shock. At the end of the first stage, he ranked the highest in damage dealt within a 10-minute timeframe with 9,668 damage, edging out Hooreg of the London Spitfire, who posted 9,656 damage. Francisty has been a fun person to watch both in Overwatch League and on social media, where he started a movement called the Babybay Challenge. Every time someone takes on the Challenge, the Shock donate money to mental health organizations in the San Francisco area.
I talked to Francisty about this movement, his path into Overwatch League, and what we can expect from Stage 2, which begins on February 21. You can follow Francisty on Twitter and Instagram. Make sure you take the Challenge, and see if you can get your friends to keep the chain going.
I’m seeing the Babybay Challenge all over Twitter. Can you walk me through what the challenge is, and how it got started?
It all started with me releasing my Instagram to the public. My fans and I were hyping it up, and I was trying to get a thousand viewers, so I posted a picture, and made sure I looked pretty good. It was like a weird, old MySpace post. People started joking about it, and my fans started copying and imitating it. They’d jokingly say “#babybaychallenge,” and put themselves next to me. As for San Francisco Shock, we saw [the challenge] as an outlet that we could use for good and to do some charity work. It was getting a lot of traction and we knew we could turn it into something big. It’s crazy how it’s blown up.
Any celebrities take the Challenge?
“What if Shaq does this,” I jokingly said to my teammates. I think it was DhaK [Daniel Martinez Paz] who said, “If Shaq does it, I’ll get the picture framed for you, and put it in your room.” It was kind of surreal because three days later, I get a message from Andy Miller (our owner), and he said, “Look, Shaq just did your challenge!” I was like, “No way, dude! There’s no way!” Jimmy Rollins did it, too. It’s absurd and crazy – amazing that we could have an outlet for people to feel comfortable to talk about illness.
It’s a fantastic movement. Well done implementing it in a fun way.
And it’s actually a challenge! Putting your arm up in that position? I read every single post usually, and the comments always say “I don’t know how you got your arm like that! Looks hard.”
Walk me through the First Stage of the leagues. You ended on a 3 and 7 record, which isn’t where you wanted to be. What were the highs and lows of the first 10 games.
We started out not so hot when we lost 4-0 to [Los Angeles] Valiant. I think it was from us not realizing that this is it; this is some serious stuff. We didn’t buckle down and grind as hard as we should. After that, we started grinding way harder, and getting more out of our practices.
I think the highest high we had so far was against Boston Uprising. We were extremely composed, and Boston is now one of the top teams in the League. They’re a force to be reckoned with, and to be able to take them out when we did – and the way we did in a long series – that was probably the highest of the highs. The lowest of the lows was probably against Dallas Fuel. We didn’t keep our composure in that game, but it’s good now. I think we’ve figured it out in a way. We’ve always had this problem where we’d play really good during practice – every team tells us we’re the best at practice, but then we would go on stage and wouldn’t play the same way. Did you see the last match against Seoul Dynasty? You could tell we were way more composed. It was great to have that feeling. We’re working as a unit now, which is good.
Is it the environment of being on stage throws off the chemistry, or is it how heated the competition gets?
It’s a little bit of everything. We don’t have very experienced players on our team in terms of LAN tournaments. I’m probably the most experienced on the team, but still, there’s pressure and crowd. All that stuff adds up. In practice, you can just relax and if something bad happens, it doesn’t matter. When something’s not going right on stage, then you start to panic and make stupid decisions.
You said you’re one of the most experienced on the team. Where did your competitive eSports career begin?
I’ll give you the whole story of how I got into gaming. Around the time the original Xbox came out, my dad bought it. Not even for me, but for himself. [laughs] He went away one summer to Europe or something, and I started playing Halo. As time went by, I played Halo 2 and Halo 3. I played at some MLG events when I was a kid and got some experience there. Then I moved onto PC and discovered this game called Crossfire. Through that game I went to my first international LAN in China when I was 15 years old. I’d go to China every year. I’ve also been to Brazil, South Korea, all over the States competing, so I’m used to that stage environment, and that leads me to Overwatch. I love playing on stage because it feels natural to me.
What was that conversation like with your family? Was it, “I play this game and I need to go to China?”
I had played hockey my whole life since I was four years old, so when I told them I was invited to go to a tournament in New York as a qualifier, my dad was like, “What do you mean you’re going to New York?” [laughs] I said I was going to this tournament, and they’re paying to fly me out. Then I ended up winning the tournament and saying, “I’m going to China!” My mom and dad were like, “No, you’re not! What do you mean? You’re not going to China. You’re only 15! Are you crazy?” I said I was going and my dad was like, “Fine. If you’re going to go, I’m coming with you.” My dad saw that it was the real deal and what it could be. Ever since then, my family has supported me a great amount and I thank them for that.
At this point, people are latching onto the best teams squaring off against each other. Those are the matches that are getting attention. Are there any rivalries developing between teams or players that we may not see as viewers?
I know a lot of Korean players have a thing for Jake because he’s one of the best Junkrat players in the game, so they always talk about him like that. And I think we have a rivalry with Boston since we beat them last time. I’m pretty sure they want to beat us bad because I don’t think they thought that they should lose to us. They were pretty mad about that. Apart from that, I’m not really sure. I’d say our rivalries are with Boston for and the Los Angeles teams.
What style of play or heroes do you think your team specializes in, and should be known for in this season?
We definitely specialize in hitscan and with Pharah. Maybe not so much with Genji because we haven’t implemented him into our games. I think that style is what players can tell what we have.
Communication is difficult while playing the game. When I’m competing, I rarely talk because that part of my body shuts down. I just focus on the action and trying to land my shots. Can you walk me through the parameters of who should be talking and when?
I come from a team where there was constant chatter, but working with this team, we’ve had to break down our com structure. We noticed that, before we reached the level of composure we have now, we were getting way too hyped up and yelling over each other. It wasn't good. We weren't taking it easy. That lead to stupid decisions, not tracking enemy ultimates, and small things you need to do after every team fight. So we definitely got a hold of our VoDs from matches to listen to our communication. Ever since we watched the VoD of our match with Dallas, we realized how awful it was to hear. People are talking over each other, and some people aren’t hearing others because we’re yelling. We made sure to work on that, and be more calm, cool, and collected. I’m a big part of that, and was very vocal before with matches, so I’ve backed off a bit on that. It’s different for every team and this is what our team needs to do: not get overly hyped because we start to get in a bad place.
Now that the kinks are getting worked out, I imagine it’s going to be a much more even playing field with your team and others in Stage Two. One of the big changes are the patches to Mercy and Junkrat that will be implemented into Stage 2. Do you think this will change the dynamic of the heroes we see?
The Mercy change is the most crucial one. You’re going to see a lot more Lucio now, and it might even go back to traditional dive with Lucio and Zenyatta. I guarantee you’ll see a lot less Mercy, only if you’re running a Pharah. Even then, I’m not even sure. With the Junkrat change, I’ve been playing live server a lot since the break, and it’s not that much different. He’s still pretty broken and strong. I guarantee it. But yeah, the Mercy change is huge because when you get a pick you can’t just instantly rez a person, and her ultimate being nerfed is the main part of that. You can’t instantly rez someone when they die and carry a team fight. You’re going to see more full plays with speed boost and stuff like that. Very cool strats that will come out. It’ll be better, I believe.
From a player perspective, everybody kind of plays a set number of heroes, but you seem to be all over the place. You have a lot of heroes you’ll bring out. Which one’s your favorite?
Widowmaker is my favorite, even though I feel like I’ve been getting floored by a lot of the Widows in this league now, but I just love sniping. It’s been my thing in every game I’ve played, and if I had a runner-up it’d be Pharah. I don’t know why. I just started playing her and she’s a lot of fun. Who doesn’t like landing rockets on people.
You and Fleta have had the biggest applause from the crowd. The broadcast often focuses on Widow and Pharah. Does hearing the live crowd in the arena affect you at all?
I definitely notice it, but don’t let it affect me in a good or bad way. I’m just so used to playing with a crowd that it’s become second nature to me. I do feed off a good vibe, but if no one was cheering, it wouldn’t matter to me.
Is there anything you’d like to see change with OWL? Are you liking the way it’s set up?
Right now, I’m pretty happy with how it is. I don’t think I could come up with anything to change. I’m just thankful for the opportunity to be here.
What about the game itself? Would you ask Blizzard to add or tweak anything? Maybe a new hero?
I’m not sure. Maybe something that’s anti-dive, or rework Reinhardt so he’s a bit stronger against Winston and D.Va. Not sure how they could do that. There is a cool, small change that wouldn’t make much of a difference, but I think the hitbox on Genji’s deflect should be nerfed. It seems like no matter where you shoot him, he’s going to hit you no matter what. I think you should be able to shoot him from the side and on his feet. His deflect seems broken in a way.
What do you do in your spare time to unwind?
If I feel like I’m getting burnt out, I’ll play a chill game like Runescape that won’t mess up my aim. I don’t know why I play it, but it relieves my stress. Outside of just playing games, I like to go to the gym regularly four days a week. I’ll get massages here and there to keep the stress levels good because this is a really stressful job. People think you’re playing video games and that’s so sick, but it really does turn into a job, at least one that I love. It’s definitely stressful, and you have to find things to balance it out.
You said that you don’t want to play something else that will affect your aim. Does that mean you avoid all shooters?
I have been. The sensitivities in every game are different, so I don’t think it’s a good thing to be playing other games at the same time while you’re competing.
Where do you see yourself going after the league? How long can you compete?
I’m still pretty young, so I think I still have four or five years under my belt. I hope I do. After that, I don’t know. Maybe I could become a coach, do analysis, or be on the desk or something. It’s endless what you can do afterwards. I chose to do this over going to college and I don’t regret it.