A Case For Designing More Solo Player Moments Into Escape Rooms

Solo moments are an underutilized mechanic for pushing the boundaries of escape room design. Solo moments are some portion of the game (a puzzle, a challenge, a task, a story beat, a physical space, or a setpiece, etc…) that is experienced by only one member of the team.

Man standing alone on top of small mountain.

What About The Team?

Solo moments might seem counter to the whole idea of escape rooms as team adventures. Escape rooms are usually group activities, and are sometimes used as team building exercises because of the communication and cooperation needed to be successful. 

Is it fair to have one player experience something that the rest of the group misses? Is the specialness felt by one player worth the possible disappointment of the rest of the group in an escape room? I think in some cases it can be. 

In the immersive theater world, the one-on-one is a key aspect of many designs and it is often valued and sought out by attendees. Escape rooms and immersive theater are not the same, but they are increasingly becoming closer and closer cousins in the immersive gaming universe. Escape room creators should consider ways to borrow this concept as a way to push the boundaries of their own designs. 

It Is OK To Be Special

Sometimes team activities have individuals experience hero moments: a task or event where one participant has a chance to lead their team, stand out and feel special. These can result in the overall experience feeling different for that individual. They can create an entirely different kind of memory of the game.

Solo moments in escape rooms shouldn’t be pressure packed game deciding events, but they can still make a player feel special. They can be optional, non-critical puzzles or challenges that have a fun pay off if completed. It could be a simple character interaction, or a story delivery device so that one player has some cool new info to explain to the team. David Spira suggests that Escape Room Phones Should Default to Speaker unless they are being used to create a special solo moment or interaction. So let’s use them for that purpose. There can be magic in a private conversation with a game character. 

Split From The Team

Some escape games do have single person carve-outs that function as a form of split team interactions. These come with the normally associated pros and cons. There is something exciting about being selected for something, or volunteering for something that is unknown, but it can go sideways if the wrong player is chosen for a specific task or puzzle. Often some type of communication puzzle is employed where the whole team works together by relaying information to and from the individual who has been separated.

Solo experiences can be purely theatrical. They should not be puzzle situations where the entire team gets stuck or is relying on the single player in order to proceed. Good game design would ensure that the rest of the team is engaged in the important game-advancing content while their teammate is away doing something interesting, but less important to the group’s success. 

The remaining team may feel FOMO if they perceive that the selected player got to do or see something unique, especially if the team has a member that often leaps first at those opportunities. Experiences can also be designed to select someone other than the boldest and sometimes make a person – who maybe needs it – feel special or more confident about themselves. 

Occasionally solo interactions are designed so other people can see the isolated player and witness what they are experiencing, but I don’t think that is always necessary. I appreciate the possibilities of creating a special moment for one individual to cherish and maybe others to be envious of.


Fortune favors the bold. This is a basic tenet of all life on Earth. I do understand the desire for all players to see and do everything equally, but I think that design constraint robs the medium of a mechanic that can reward certain players who really buy-in and trust the game world. 

I don’t remember an escape room where I haven’t asked a friend, “What did you just do?” or “What just happened when you did that?” I don’t expect to experience everything firsthand. I don’t think that is owed to me when I buy a ticket to a group event. Maybe if this idea becomes more widely accepted, then creators can feel freer to stretch the normal escape room structure to include moments intended for just one person.


  1. Provocative. Risky. Historically, a loathsome part of the evening’s group entertainment and post game discussion. However, Richard makes a case for NOT abandoning the concept.

    This falls into the category of “easy to do, hard to do well”. Since people are now primarily playing with people they know, the “bold” are going to go to the front of the line and if something special happens there the others often think, if not share among themselves with disdain “of course Johnny/Cindy got to have that experience.”

    One successful technique I have seen is where the game master works the game to facilitate the selection of a player they feel to be the best candidate for the solo moment to have maximum effect on the group dynamics during and post game (often, it is not the “Boldest” of the group). However, with automatic/electronic rooms and the increase of game mastering absenteeism, it becomes less likely that a particular player can be “chosen” by the facility. Having the wrong player can also significantly impact “Flow” in a game which is bad for all. So we want the special (but not too special) occasion to happen with the right player in a way that has a more positive impact on the group’s event than the associated FOMO and feelings of a disproportionate hogging of the special moments.

    Therefore, in my view the task/moment/ah-ha associated with the solo experience is nearly mythical in its ability to add more positive than negative to the group’s experience, but is not impossible. This was a hard article to write/read without some examples of actual games illustrating successful solo moments. Spoilers aside, perhaps there is a retired/closed game that we could learn from when considering this concept? Pushing boundaries is often done without a lot of evidence and case history. Another courageous and insightful topic by Richard and REA.

    Side Note: Interestingly, when I saw the headline my mind went to the idea of designing escape rooms for one player. How crazy I thought. Then, it occurred to me that one room could generate more revenue in one day than a hotel room and not require anymore staffing than a hotel to run. Since people play video games individually would they enjoy playing an escape room for one (maybe two so couples can play)? Smaller sets with lots of content/gizmos/surprises might do the trick. No group logistics, no sharing the good stuff and no FOMO. Please take on this topic REA 🙂

  2. Thank you for the thoughtful comment. Some examples that I can think of from my experiences are entering a coffin alone to be taunted by a demon, going alone into a dark side passage to go on a treasure grab session to gather as many gold coins as possible and being pulled into a private room by an actor for a solo scene that added story narrative.

  3. Fact of the matter is very few interactions in ERs are experienced by the whole team, especially when rooms are booked with 6 or more players. Even multi-player interactions generally don’t involve everyone.

    And how often has every puzzle except one been solved, but that one only has space for 2-3 people to huddle around, so everyone else is just kind of chilling in back anyway?

    Building a plethora of meaningful solo interactions is absolutely where ERs need to go to enhance interaction and experience. Parallel puzzling is an excellent solution to this and also prevents problematic gates, frustration (if I am not solving “my” puzzle, I can move to another one), and lack of engagement.

  4. Great points. Solo moments are a great way to occupy players when the alphas are solving most of the puzzles.

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