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LGBT History Month: GayBlade

It’d be a mistake to talk about LGBT History in games without mentioning Ryan Best’s innovative, gay-orientated RPG, GayBlade.

GayBlade was released into the world in the year 1992 and combines the narrow corridors of dungeons with the horrendously anti-gay attitude that was rife during the 1990’s. From that description alone, it should be obvious that the game isn’t your typical RPG and, in all honesty, is better off because of it.

The description of the game and what it is about goes like so: “Empress Nelda has been captured by the forces of homophobia and is being held deep in a dungeon by an evil lord. Only you and your ragtag collection of gays, drag queens, lesbians and muses can save the empress from the motley crew of evil televangelists, rednecks, neo-Nazis, FBI probes and jocks roaming the dungeon’s corridors. Welcome to the world of GayBlade, billed as the world’s first computer fantasy role-playing game for gay and lesbian adventurers.”

As described, you play as a party of queer characters – be it drag queens, lesbians, gays, etc – that you need to roll up by visiting the tavern and ‘recruiting’ the adventurers needed to help you get back the Empress. It’s a fun, campy twist, and it’s made even better once you understand that in this game, we – the LGBTQ+ community – are the heroes against homophobia. It’s completely on the nose, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t empowering.

The question is, of course, what is homophobia in this game and how do you represent that? Honestly, not a lot has changed when it comes to depicting homophobia. For Best’s game, homophobia is shaped by the enemies of GayBlade: the cops, TV preachers, neo-Nazi’s, rednecks, jocks, and so much more. Stereotypical enemies that don’t look at the more insidious homophobia that is rooted in the small instances are not included, but that doesn’t necessarily negate the weight of importance GayBlade had on the LGBT+ community.

Explained by Best in the Netflix documentary High Score, GayBlade was the very first openly queer RPG in existence and documented the troubles of the time yes, but also touched the lives of queer players around the world who was doing everything they could possibly do in order to fight for their rights. Not only that, it allowed queer players to have a way to fight back and be themselves in the comfort of their own home. To say that GayBlade is vitally important and influential would be the understatement of the year.

Ryan Best’s hard work was originally lost to time, but after much searching and sleuthing, GayBlade was found. Just in time too, as it was right before Best was to make an appearance in “Berlin for the closing of Rainbow Arcade, the LGBTQ game history exhibit at the Schwules Museum, co-curated by Sarah Rudolph, Jan Schnorrenberg, and Adrienne Shaw.” (via LGBTQ Video Game Archive.)

After the game was recovered it was soon made playable. So yes, if you’re looking for a new old-timey RPG to play that focuses on the highs and the lows of the queer community, then look no further than GayBlade.


Gayme of the Week is a weekly column by Aimee Hart about indie LGBT+ games that she’s played and what she loves about them. If you’ve got any recommendations, be sure to contact her on Twitter (@AimemeRights) or email (aimee@gaymingmag.com).

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