In my final year at university, I played more than 3,000 games of Funky Snooker. I lost my family, my friends, my house, my job… OK, it didn’t get quite that bad, but I sure as hell threw away a lot of my time.
It started with a click, like everything does these days. Pretty soon there were a few dozen twisted cigarette stubs in my ashtray, it was dark outside, and I was still clicking. I don’t know how many games I was getting through per day back then, but I knew it was pretty serious when typing F into my internet toolbar brought up its URL instead of Facebook’s.
I didn’t see the harm. Everyone has their own virtual vice, and mine wasn’t nearly as bad as poker or in-play betting – where money was at stake.
Funky Snooker is an online snooker hall where you can compete with players from all over the world. Each game affects your ranking – you start off on 675; if you’re half decent you’ll reach about 750; experts are around the 800 mark; the one-percent elite hover between 850 and 900.
To you it might sound as dull as hearing someone’s sphincter opening in a toilet cubicle at work on a Monday morning, but I found it challenging, invigorating, and exciting.
The site also allows you to converse with the strangers you’re playing against. One memorable chat I recall was with a guy who worked in a call centre. After quick one-off became a best-of-seven, he wished me all the best. “Sooner or later you’ll settle down,” he started. “But don’t end up like me – thirty years old, in a job you hate, playing online snooker games when your boss isn’t looking.”
It wasn’t usually this civilised. Far from it. In one of my first sessions, I was closing in on an unlikely victory against an 800-ranker. I’d adopted a tactical game that had stifled his blitzkrieg approach and given me a ten-point lead heading on to the final few colours. However, I got my angles all wrong on the blue, which rebounded agonisingly between the jaws of the centre-left pocket. He cleared up, wrote “BOOOOOOOOOOM YA TWAT ;)”, then left.
People fired insults like this all the time, but I never rose to it. If I happened to win a game in which I’d been on the receiving end of some abuse, I considered that a comeback in itself. If someone was being a dick and ended up beating me, I just flared my nostrils and carried on playing. What’s that? I should have been a sports psychologist? Don’t make me blush.
I think it was after a shopping trip to Lidl ended up a couple of quid more expensive than I expected it to be that I flipped. A guy was trying to put me off by saying stuff like “I hope your dad dies of cancer” and “has anyone ever told you your profile pic makes you look like a scrotum wart?” (It totally did – the only photo I had of myself under the 100KB limit didn’t quite catch my best side.) I threw everything I had behind winning that game, just to teach him a lesson. I was ranking in the 750s by this point, so I was pretty confident. It went down to a tense black ball re-spot, which I won.
Then I inexplicably fell to his level. “Haha, you cunt, fuck you,” I typed. “I do my talking on the table.” I went to hit the Leave Room option, determined to have the last word, before adding “BOOOOOOOOOOM YA TWAT ;)”.
This so wasn’t me. I’ve never had a fight in my life – but it was satisfying, I’m ashamed to say. And it continued. Many subsequent arguments would begin with the other player calling me “lucky”, to which I’d reply “Nah, it’s called talent mate. Now go screw a goat”. I never wished death on anyone’s father, but I did try to wind people up at every opportunity. I don’t know why.
After graduating, I quit smoking and went travelling. I played a bit more Funky Snooker when I returned, while I was looking for a job, but it wasn’t the same. I’d peaked.
I’ll be honest – I might’ve had a couple of games in between writing these sentences, for research. My profile now reads: Wins 1,649; Losses 2,066; Abandoned 300; Highest Break 78; Half Centuries 49; Highest Rank 824.6. I’m now ranking in the 670s, so I’m back where I started. Which says a lot, I suppose.
If you fancy ruining your life with a game, you can play Funky Snooker here, on their website.