Who doesn’t love a good dystopian graphic novel? I know I sure do. Give me an online one that also teaches coding and you just made my day. Dystopia 2153, is exactly that. A web-based graphic novel where you solve coding puzzles as you move through the story. Dystopia 2153 was created by TEACH Magazine. I explored the free version – Chapter one of Episode One.
In the Not Too Distant Future
Dystopia 2153 is set in the year 2153 after our world has fallen and is now run by tyrannical robots. The story focuses on orphans making a daring escape from Rathouse Orphanage.
You begin by reading the graphic novel, which is dark and beautifully illustrated. I also like the ambient music that helps you get into the story. As you flip through the pages you learn about humanity’s downfall and the rise of the machines we created. Then fast forward to Lance. Orphaned from the fall and living in Rathouse Orphanage with others like him.
Lance works in the garbage dump. For your first set of challenges, you use basic coding skills to help him take the shortcut through the halls to the dump. For the challenges, you use Blocky code to move Lance through the mazes. Your robotic squirrel friend, Chiclet, gives you hints and help along the way.
There are 10 challenges in the first set. They start with simple move codes and progress to include loops and variables. It took me a minute to solve the 10th level.
I really enjoyed the free chapter. The story is intriguing, the artwork is wonderful, and the challenges were, well, challenging. Dystopia 2153 is intended for middle school students. I think that is a fitting age.
I like the mix of story and puzzles that progressively get harder as you move through the story. The narrative gives purpose to the puzzle challenges. You are not just doing puzzles to learn how to code, you are solving the puzzles to advance the narrative. They are connected to the plot points of the story. I feel that increases students motivation to advance.
Currently, there are two episodes available with a third on the way. You can preview the first chapter of Episode one for free by creating an account. To continue reading and playing, you can purchase the home edition, which includes Episode 1, 2, and 3 for $24.99. The price of a new hardcover book. For teachers, you can purchase a classroom edition, which gives you one-year access to all three episodes for 30 students, for $124.99. It also includes additional classroom resources. However, it looks like, as I am writing this, they are running a sale. Home edition is now $12.49 and Classroom edition is $49.99. Go to their pricing page for more information and get yours at this great price! You can even purchase hard copies of Episode one if you prefer an IRL version. Buy that on Amazon.
In the Classroom
Along with teaching students to code, based on the first chapter, there are a lot of other STEAM concepts you can pull out of the story. Such as robotics, AI, and automation, the ethics of technology, environmental issues, politics, and the future of our planet. You could build other activities around the story in addition to having your students learn to code within the story. You could also use it to build their visual literacy skills as they analyze the story visuals.
Dystopia 2153 is a very interesting way to engage students in storytelling and coding. The story seems like it is a good one and the coding puzzles are pretty cool. Go to the website, create a free account and read chapter one for yourself. Like me, you will want to get the rest, just because you want to know how the story ends.