Thank you… and I’m so, so sorry

brexit graphic (CC0 but by stucco on pixabay)Speaking purely personally…

I like the vast, vast majority of people who run escape rooms. It doesn’t have to be a great room, you’ve just not got to rip people off in order for me to like you. Don’t rip off the paying public, don’t rip off your employees and don’t consciously rip off other games. (Similarities are inevitable and there are only so-o-o-o-o many different accessible puzzles in the world.) Thank you for taking the chance and setting up your game; I think you have done a good thing for the world and I wish you every success.

Many of the first few escape rooms in the UK were founded by people who had run games in other countries and emigrated to these shores. I don’t know everybody’s story; many games don’t make their owners clear, and – in a sense – it doesn’t matter all that much. Some of the earliest game owners are immigrants from Hungary, some (I believe) are immigrants from an east Asian country (probably China, but I wouldn’t swear to it), some are people who played games overseas and thought “why couldn’t this happen in the UK?” and many I don’t know about.

Two days ago, a UK referendum voted by a margin of 52% to 48%, with pretty good turnout, for the UK to leave the European Union. This makes me horribly sad. Nobody can know what the consequences will be as a result of this vote, though some sets of consequences are a lot more plausible than others. It would seem logical that companies who pay their staff well moving from the UK would lower the amount of disposable income in the UK economy. One of the things I really hate is the way that people seem to have responded to a campaign that encouraged them to turn their back on expert opinion, apparently purely for the sake of doing so.

There is already evidence of people taking the result of the referendum as an excuse to be ever more overtly hateful than before. It’s definitely a sign that large parts of the UK are not welcoming to those who have come, and those who would come, from overseas and made our lives better. I voted to remain in the EU, and I particularly want to thank – and ashamedly apologise to – those who brought their games from overseas, particularly in the early days. You fully deserve your very considerable success; your bravery, imagination and competence have made our lives better, and this is a horrible way to repay you for it.

As a counterfactual, I tend to believe that escape rooms would still have been a success in the UK if they had been started only by those who had played them overseas rather than those who brought their expertise from EU countries to the UK, but not nearly such of a success yet. At a guess, we’d be perhaps twelve months behind where we are today without them… without you.

I would imagine that some UK escape room enthusiasts and owners may not feel the same way as me, particularly those for whom self-interest must take a much higher priority over a global perspective. I don’t know quite what the impact of the EU is on small business owners, though I have a strong suspicion that much will be blamed on the EU that is not actually the EU’s fault. Nobody can know what the impact of the vote will be, but I find it likely that the sad, horrifying and counter-productive consequences may have a much bigger impact than any good ones that might arise.

To all honest escape room owners: thank you. To all honest escape room owners who came from overseas: thank you especially, and I’m so, so sorry for the way we’ve reacted.

(Comments are off for this article. Maybe some day I’ll be in a mood to discuss the issues, but I’m just hurting at the moment, and will be for a long time to come.)