After it became clear that many frosh wouldn’t see a speck of Cardinal Red in the flesh this quarter, a team of tech-savvy students developed a virtual reality program that autonomously simulates what your life would have been like on a campus without COVID-19. “It uses deep learning or something,” explained project lead Erica Mendez.

Users were shocked to discover the program’s prediction that, without a global pandemic, the mainland Chinese military would have moved forward with a top-secret plan to invade Taiwan, triggering a global nuclear conflict. Besides casualties numbering in the hundreds of millions, the planet’s economy is in shambles, and thermonuclear detonations have melted ice caps, intensifying the devastating effects of climate change by a factor of ten. Still, Stanford welcomed its full cohort of surviving frosh to campus, which had miraculously escaped atomic fire.

Individual students also commented on the uncanny accuracy of their individual situations—Janet Li ’24, for example, confirmed that her simulated mother had still cheated on her father with the mailman, leading to a messy divorce and her working a part-time job to support her single and newly heartbroken father. Other users were surprised at how things turned out differently, such as how Brian Wilson’s simulated boyfriend had been stung to death by murder hornets.

So far, response to the project has been overwhelmingly positive, with many users praising the simulated ability to go outside and feel the sun on their skin for the first time in months, the devastating consequences of modern war aside. At press time, developers had announced plans to expand the project to include other mainstays of campus life, such as getting your bike stolen, paying $900 for an ambulance after getting transported, or being diagnosed with cancer from radioactive fallout.

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