The recently released video game documentary High Score includes a sequence in the third episode about a game called GayBlade. GayBlade is one of the first commercially-sold LGTBQ-themed video games, a role-playing romp for Windows and Macintosh occasionally referred to as “Dungeons and Drag Queens”. Once thought to have been lost, the game’s software was recently discovered and preserved—and is now available in the Internet Archive!
Although LGTBQ people have been creating video games since the earliest days of the industry, there were very few games before the 21st century that explicitly had LGTBQ themes. Game creator Ryan Best hoped to change that with GayBlade, remarking, “This game gives lesbians and gays—and straight people—a chance to strike back at homophobia from behind our computer screen.”
The game is definitely political, racy and unafraid to make waves, as it definitely did in 1992 when it was released. Players are tasked with exploring a deep dungeon filled with homophobic enemies, trying to rescue the Empress Nelda and return her to Castle GayKeep. Best (and co-creator John Theurer) filled the game with humorous spells, items and antagonists while still keeping it all within the traditional role-playing genre. There are over 13 levels and 1,300 different rooms in this dungeon, reflecting the remarkable amount of work put into it by its creators—truly a unique work of art.
After being lost in a move from Honolulu to San Francisco, the game was thought to have disappeared forever. In High Score, creator Ryan Best laments that he was unable to find any of the game files, and was not very hopeful he would ever find them. But that’s not the end of the story—between the close of filming and the release of the documentary, Best discovered another copy of his game. Thanks to efforts by the LGTBQ Game Archive, Strong Museum of Play, and Internet Archive, it was preserved.
If you want to experience GayBlade for yourself, it’s available in our emulated games collection. You can play it directly in your browser if you’d like, or download the original source code. Additionally, an even earlier LGTBQ game called Caper In The Castro, a mystery adventure dating to 1989, is also emulated in the archive. So hit play and take a look at a little-known slice of LGTBQ history!