If Will Hyland hadn't been totally bored at the cottage years ago, he never would've found the passion that makes up so much of his life now. Desperately looking for something to do, he dug out a board game his little brother had begged their mom to buy at Toys 'R' Us when they were little kids.
The siblings and their friends grew to love that Dungeons & Dragons board game so much that they had to adapt it to accommodate more players than the game could be played by. Will's passion outstripped that of his brother, and soon enough he was a full-blown D&D lover.
"It's a collaborative storytelling sort of thing," says Will, a fourth-year geology student. "It's not something super well-known to people outside the hobby."
Now, Will's the president and most prolific member of the Western Association of Roleplayers (WARP). If you go to a meeting, you'll probably see him leading the group that looks up to him as their game master. He narrates games and directs the other players on their quest for that day.
The inventive aspect of running the game is what appeals most to Will, who used to struggle with expressing his creativity.
"I've always loved telling stories," he says, "but I didn't like writing and I didn't like drawing comics or anything like that."
Will also loves the collaborative aspect of D&D. To him, creating a narrative and working on it with his friends is extremely satisfying.
When Will first came to university, it was tough to find friends with common interests. As he says, it's harder to find people who are into roleplaying games than it is to find someone to talk with about sports.
Everyone needs a way to de-stress and for Will that's hunting for treasure with his friends for a few hours. He says that leading WARP has helped him learn how to manage people, but he's not there to pad his resume.
Once he leaves Western, Will wants to work in mining before applying to grad school. He doesn't think his roleplaying will have a tangible effect on his job prospects, but that's not the point.
Unfortunately, Will has had to deal with the stigma that comes with being a roleplayer, but he says that it's becoming a lot better now that the stereotypes are being challenged.
"There are the [stereotypes] that are really unrealistic, like back in the '80s when everybody thought that it was satanists in their basements," says Will. "[Then] people thought it's still nerds in their basements but they're dressed as wizards."
Things have progressed since then, though, and Will says the new misconceptions are more reasonable. People ask him if players always make up voices for the game or whether he's had the same character for five years, but they're opening their minds to roleplaying.
With the rise of "geek chic," as Will puts it, it's become cool to be a nerd.
"For a while, it was weird to be a geek," he says."I went through very much the stereotypical high school geek story of 'no one likes me, I don't have any friends,' until eventually everyone else sorta became a geek and I had all the friends."