Steven Jay Williams, better known to viewers as Boogie2988, is one of the most famous faces on the internet. He shouted his way to YouTube success through his loud-mouthed and rageaholic alter ego "Francis," and has done everything from fight Larry Hryb in a lightsaber duel to resurrect Shaggy memes with Ed Boon. From all outward appearances, Williams seems to be living life to the fullest. However, the latest developments in Williams’ story are anything but funny.
Recently, Northwest Arkansas’ Fox 24 reported that Williams had been arrested because he "discharged a firearm into a residential neighborhood" in 2020. Sites such as Newsweek elaborated that he didn’t aim the weapon at anyone, but instead "allegedly fired a gun into the air as a ‘warning shot.’" Who was he trying to ward off? Fellow content creator Frank Hassle, who was banned from the platform in 2021 and who has allegedly threatened and harassed Williams on multiple occasions (via Dexerto).
Before today, you probably didn’t know Williams was part of such a dangerous feud. You also probably didn’t know that Williams once suffered from lymphedema, had an extremely difficult childhood, and based Francis on his own personal experiences. You could probably write a book on all the factoids you didn’t know about Williams. Here is the dark truth of Boogie2988.
In the beginning
Even though Steven Williams currently lives in Fayetteville, he grew up in the small town St. Paul, West Virginia (according to a video he made about his life story). The town only had a population of around a thousand people. St. Paul’s chief export was coal, and Williams’ father was involved in that business.
According to Williams, his father was a coal miner, and the job weighed on him heavily and ate away at his emotions. Williams’ mother, meanwhile, was a teacher, and she was every bit as sad as Williams’ father. In fact, she was more than sad; she was angry much of the time.
Although Williams had an older brother, Bryan, and an older sister, Karla, things took a turn when Karla eventually ran away and Bryan left for college. Williams was 9 at the time. Since his father was almost always working, Williams says he spent a lot of time with his mother, who used to verbally and physically abuse him. When Williams’ father was home, he says, it was not a happy occasion, as his father was an alcoholic.
This early period in Williams’ life affected him in many ways, including turning him off of beer.
If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.
Onward and upward into geek culture
As you can probably guess, Steven Williams’ early life wasn’t pleasant by any stretch of the imagination. He didn’t have any friends, and his home life did not provide any relief, But, as Williams closed in on college and the possibility of leaving, his outlook on life started to improve, especially when he entered a program that set him on the path towards geekdom.
Williams claims that before college, he enrolled in the government program Upward Bound. Not only did it help him get ready for university life, he also made his first true friends there. According to Williams, the people at Upward Bound thought he was "cool" and "funny," and they shared the same interests, such as video games and "Dungeons & Dragons."
However, the Upward Bound program wasn’t just an affirmation for Williams; it also introduced a bunch of firsts to his life. Williams got to use his first computer at Upward Bound, and his newfound friends piqued his interest in authors like Douglas Adams and Stephen King — in particular, he discovered a fondness for King’s "The Dark Tower." However, the most important first for Williams may be the fact that he met his first girlfriend there.
Better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all
After you leave a precollegiate program like Upward Bound, it’s only natural to head for college. And so, Steven Williams decided to attend the University of Virginia at Wise (UVA Wise). However, leaving for college also meant saying goodbye to all his Upward Bound friends. Luckily, one of them also attended UVA Wise, and this friend just so happened to be a girl (hint, hint).
Williams’ first girlfriend, the one he met in Upward Bound, joined him at UVA Wise — and for a time, things went swimmingly. They dated and assumed they would eventually get married, but that wasn’t meant to be. According to Williams, for reasons unknown, a schism formed between the two. Williams and his girlfriend started fighting, and while they initially assumed they were simply going through a rough patch and could work things out, that just didn’t happen. Eventually, Williams and his girlfriend parted ways.
While time has healed the wound of this first breakup, it devastated Williams when it first happened. His emotional state sunk and took his grades with it. Williams never graduated from UVA Wise, flunking out.
Why does he like Magic: The Gathering? Same reason he likes the internet
After leaving college, Steven Williams was in a dark place. He wasn’t sure where to turn or what to do with his life. The one bright spot of Williams’ life prior to Upward Bound, his brother Bryan, held the answer.
According to Williams, Bryan offered him the opportunity to move to Fayetteville, Arkansas, which would become his permanent home. Bryan thought that this was an opportunity for his brother to "reinvent" himself, so Steven Williams took that opportunity and subsequently found his future platform: the internet. Despite his lack of a college degree, Williams studiously learned how to code for the internet at a local computer lab. He also found a steady job as a web designer, even though he found that some of his clients had dirty minds and wanted him to code equally dirty websites.
Moreover, Williams found a passion in "Magic: The Gathering" at Fayetteville. But, what is a card game like "Magic" without people to play with? Fortunately, Fayetteville had plenty of those, and Williams accrued more friends than ever before. Williams and his new friends became "Magic" wizards and new to be so proficient that they attended tournaments across the country.
During this golden age of web design and "Magic," everything was coming up Steven Williams.
All good things must come to an end, and after a few lucky breaks with work and friends, the world came crashing down for Steven Williams. He entered a depression so deep that he refused to leave the house for seven years. These feelings were not helped by an ever-expanding internet and an abundance of competing web design coders, which dried up his work. However, he had a roommate to rely on for help, And, during his self-imposed isolation, Williams was reborn as Boogie2988 … and Francis.
Eventually, Williams came across the burgeoning website known as YouTube, and he didn’t know what to make of it, let alone what to make for it. So, he just started with videos where he "ate french fries and acted stupid." One thing led to another, and the character of Francis eventually plopped onto the primordial video platform. Of course, he wasn’t an overnight success.
Unless you were there for the birth of Francis, you might not know that a video in which his "World of Warcraft" account was hacked set him off towards stardom. The clip was intentionally overblown, and it caught the attention of another YouTuber, Ray William Johnson, who subsequently shared it. Boogie2988/Francis became famous through word of mouth.
You hate Francis? Good, that was the entire point
Francis is every nerd and geek stereotype rolled into one package. He is slovenly, loses his temper at every inconvenience, and he talks with an exaggerated lisp. That is by design and is drawn from Steven Williams’ experiences, as well as his desire to deliver a message.
During an interview with Kotaku, Williams revealed that Francis is based on someone he used to know: himself. "I grew up very, very angry," Williams explained. "Francis is very close to the person that I was for the first 20 years of my life. Even today, a large portion of who I am is very, very angry." Granted, the anger Williams feels probably is nothing like the anger Francis expresses, but Williams believes that vicariously venting his frustration through Francis is "lifesaving."
Regarding Francis’ message, Williams claims that the character is a front. He explained, "I wanted to bring people in with Francis by being a s****y, detestable, laughable, fat stereotype of a nerd neckbeard. I wanted people to just f*****g hate him."
Williams wanted to draw audiences in with Francis and blindside them once in a while by revealing the man behind the fake rage. He wanted viewers to challenge their own perceptions, and if they were schoolyard bullies picking on fat kids, he wanted them to be able to rethink their actions and get to know their targets better, instead of just stealing their lunch money.
His parents had difficult lives until the end
Coal mining is an extremely dangerous profession. Even if you aren’t poisoned by toxic gases or crushed by cave-ins (as noted by Business Insider), the job can take its toll on the body and mind. And even when you’re not the one toiling away in the mines, the profession can leave a mark on your soul. Just ask Steven Williams.
According to Williams’ brother Bryan (as retold by Steven Williams), their father was originally "pretty laid back" and "kinda fun," but by the time Williams was born, the man only found solace in drinking. Eventually, these alcoholic habits, combined with smoking and the dangers of coal mining, caught up to Williams’ father. He suffered an "alcoholic seizure," which rendered him semi-catatonic. He could not hear due to his years working in the mines, and he couldn’t talk because of an impassable stutter. Williams and his mother took care of his father until he passed away due to cancer.
Williams’ mother didn’t fare much better. According to Williams’, she was miserable before her husband’s death. Shortly afterwards, she broke her leg, and it refused to heal, which left her unable to work and inconsolable. After Williams had found success on YouTube, he was told that his mother was in the hospital, gravely ill. She passed away during his visit. Despite the hard feelings between them, Williams was saddened by his mother’s death, to the point of considering suicide. Thankfully, his friends, career, and fans convinced him otherwise.
If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Boogie2988 has had health issues since childhood
Steven Williams has acknowledged in the past that he has a problem with maintaining a goal weight, and he has actually made an effort to shed the pounds in the past. However, for him, losing weight is no easy task. That is not because he has a sedentary job, however; Williams has actually been dealing with health problems ever since he was a kid.
Williams claims he has a pretty lousy immune system. When he was young, he was always sick, either with allergies or just catching viral infections like chickenpox. Because of this fact, Williams often could not find the energy to exercise. To make matters worse, his fellow students made fun of him, calling him all the classic schoolyard taunts, including "fat," "ugly," and "four eyes."
The constant illnesses weighed heavily on Williams, because they were just another item to add to a growing list of miseries in his young life. One can only guess how differently his life would have turned out had he not gotten sick so easily.
The health issues never cease
Oftentimes, childrens’ health issues clear up when they become adults, but Steven Williams was not so lucky. If anything, his health issues grew more complex as time went on.
One of the worst illnesses to ravage Williams’ body was lymphedema, which is the swelling of one or both legs (or one or both arms) caused by a blockage in the lymphatic system, a crucial part of the body’s immune system. Williams’ doctor desperately wanted to remove his affected leg. According to the doctor (as revealed in an interview by Kotaku), Williams’ legs could literally have split open and bled out when he flew on a plane. Flight risk notwithstanding, it also wasn’t easy for Williams to walk with his affected leg.
Since Williams refused to undergo an amputation, he was essentially grounded in Fayetteville. Luckily, he had a strong friend-based support group, who took him out to eat constantly. That routine did wonders for his mood, at least until it affected his weight gain further. According to Williams, the more weight he gained, the sadder he became. Eventually, he decided to nip the problem in the bud, and he elected to undergo gastric bypass surgery.
Finding love again
You find love in the most unexpected places, which can really come in handy when you are in need of emotional support. Also, sometimes the best supporters are those who can naturally empathize because they have walked in your shoes.
Shortly after Steven Williams lost his mother and was at his lowest point, he met a woman who was going through the same feelings, since she had recently lost her best friend and brother. They started a long-distance relationship, which grew into a short-distance relationship when she moved in with him — and the pair got engaged. The internet would come to know this woman as Desiree Williams.
For several years, Steven and Desiree were happy. But, just like his first girlfriend, this love did not last. A wedge formed between Steven and Desiree, and eventually they divorced. Thankfully, it apparently wasn’t a messy breakup. Steven described the divorce as "amicable," and said that they are still friends, just not married.
It’s worth noting that they waited until after Steven had fully recovered from his gastric bypass surgery to finalize the divorce, which may demonstrate the "amiability" of the breakup.
He may have made a less magical move in the past
Steven Williams’ recent arrest might be the first time you’ve heard of him being on the wrong side of the law. However, you might be surprised to hear that he may have skirted around the law in the past. Of course, that depends on whose argument the IRS agrees with.
Several years ago, Williams unleashed a contentious bombshell of an admittance (originally reported by Dextero, archived by The Gamer). Williams explained that he bought "Magic: The Gathering" cards, wrote them off as business expenses, and then sold them to a friend without declaring the profits on his taxable income forms. While not quite the egregious tax evasion that companies such as Rockstar have been accused of, some redditors believe it was also a form of tax fraud. Others disagree because Williams only sold cards for about $20, which is less than what he paid for them.
Granted, since the IRS has not charged him on the matter, it is difficult to determine whether or not Williams’ tax declarations (and lack thereof) are actually illegal. Of course, he is far from the only internet celebrity to be accused of tax evasion. Accountants have pointed a finger at PewDiePie for possibly attempting to dodge taxes, but Williams seemingly admitted his actions in front of a live audience.
Innocent until proven guilty … whenever that is
Since Steven Williams was arrested after allegedly fired a "warning shot" into the air, your first thought might be: When will he go to trial? After all, the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution guarantees a fair and timely trial with a jury of one’s peers. Unfortunately, the term "timely" is subjective.
Several months after Williams’ confrontation with Frank Hassle, Dexerto reported that an arrest warrant was issued for Williams in Washington County, Arkansas. The warrant charged him with "aggravated assault" and things seemed bleak. Williams reportedly stated that he would "do the right thing" and cooperate with the authorities, and that’s exactly what he did. According to Williams’ Twitter timeline, he turned himself in and quickly made bail. Also, he plans to plead "not guilty" when the trial inevitably starts.
However, due to the sensitive nature of legal proceedings, Williams cannot comment any further. However, he expects the verdict to arrive in approximately a year. While fans have asked if they can donate to a legal fee money pool, Williams has declined the offers, asking only for emotional and viewership support.