I’m in the middle of my 20s and I’ve probably spent about half of my waking hours burning my eyeballs out in front of a screen playing some video game to experience life in another world. When I was a younger queer person, it was a great way for me to escape real time for a second and mentally take myself somewhere else. These days, it’s more of a hobby and for the most part when I do seek out video games to play, it’s either because it’s gay, an anticipated release, or it holds some sort of nostalgic power over me that I want to experience again. With gay factor being one of the most reoccurring reasons I put myself through those thousands of hours of gameplay and optometrist bills.
One late night Google search for queer games to play led me down a rabbit hole of games that I’ve never heard of. I realized that there were games out there that I was missing out on simply because no one ever talked about them and also that I was not alive on this Earth when they came out.
After doing a little more research on some of the first queer computer gamers, a few really stood out to me — one of them being GayBlade, a game from 1992 that was created by Ryan Best. The plot was simple. Save Princess Nelda from homophobic enemies and return her to Castle GayKeep. I knew I needed to play this game and I learned that after being lost for years, it recently was found in 2020 and uploaded online to play for free. I accessed the game through an online archive I’ve used before and I loaded in to see for myself.
When you first open the game up, you’re greeted with a title screen that includes GayBlade in bright pink letters with a rainbow in the background—perfect. You’re then taken to what seems to be your 2D homebase. There’s a potion shop, clinic, gay guild, magic shop, and a door that enters you into the dungeon. After doing some basic exploring and clicking around, I figured out that I couldn’t enter the dungeon without rolling for four characters that would make up my party.
The game offers six different classes of characters to roll from and while the composition of my team would change drastically given the number of times that I died and had to restart my team from scratch, my first party consisted of two Mages, a Lesbian, and a Drag Queen. Given the rolling for characters mechanic and the dungeon crawling aspect of the game, GayBlade began to feel akin to a Dungeons and Dragons campaign.
Before you enter the dungeon with your newly formed party, it’s key to enter the shop and buy the necessary weapons and shields to help fight your way through. Each type of character can wield different items. But instead of getting shields for defense, you can purchase condoms or aprons. And instead of swords and other classic weapons, you can buy mace, hair dryers, and press-on nails to fight with.
I thoroughly enjoyed creating my own party of gays and the game’s playful take on item options did make me hungry for more games with out of the box options. However, what I didn’t expect was how steep the learning curve was going to be when it came to moving mechanics and combat. I should have realized that after years of playing new games with state of the art control systems and perspective, GayBlade wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. I cannot count how many times during my first run that I killed my entire party by accidentally running them into walls.
Once I started to get a grasp on the controls, my next obstacle was learning the actual combat. When my first enemy “FBI Probe” came up to me I started spamming the attack button without knowing if I was doing any damage or not. Fights in this game can be extremely punishing if you don’t roll strong characters and take breaks in between encounters. Luckily, in the dungeons of GayBlade there are many enemies to practice attacking with your party’s assortment of press-on nails and cans of mace. As you crawl through the dungeon you can confront the game’s many adversaries like cops, FBI agents, televangelists, and more horrible individuals that freely call you slurs while you fight them. Truly, it was an experience.
While GayBlade isn’t a game that I’d find myself playing for hours on end, it does have its charm. The satisfaction I felt when my entire party survived a long span of gameplay or when I successfully revived a key party member at the gay clinic was key in the enjoyability of this point and click dungeon game. I never made it to save Princess Nelda, but I implore you all to try your hand at saving her from the clutches of homophobic dungeon dwellers.
If you have any queer games that you’d like to recommend, older or current, please send them my way!