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The recently released Portal 2 , a brilliant, physics-based puzzler set in an abandoned science research facility, works in exactly the same way. Here, players wield a portal gun, a device that creates dimensional wormholes in walls, floors and ceilings — but they're only introduced to one facet of the gun at a time, and when it has been mastered, new items such as super-bouncy gels are introduced. There is constant progress and a continually evolving challenge, but there is always room to experiment and to figure things out through intuition.

Also, learning is rarely done in an atmosphere that's a little bit illicit. Something we don't talk about is that, actually, one of the strengths of games is the stigma that still surrounds them — they feel like bunking off! But the brain's love of systems and puzzles is only part of the deeper appeal. Another important element is autonomy. Games tap into our need to have control; this is very obvious in "god games" such as The Sims , where we shape the lives of virtual humans, but it's becoming a vital element of action adventures and shooters, too.

There's an emphasis on the pleasure of choosing and planning. We've moved quite dramatically away from the action games of the 80s and 90s, where the primary mode of engagement was reaction to events. This has proved to be a hugely successful recipe. The Grand Theft Auto series of urban shoot-'em-ups has sold more than million copies, not just because of the rampant crime and violence, which is admittedly fun, but because they offer the player agency and authority in a realistic, complicated world. And then, whatever you do, games notice.

Again, in life, that doesn't always happen. If you do the things you're supposed to do efficiently and quietly, no one notices and that's rubbish. Now, the industry has really started to consider the appeal of player autonomy. She has been reading essays by George Loewenstein , a behavioural economist who's written at length about curiosity: "Curiosity is the act of wanting a thing without knowing what it is. Lowenstein calls it 'closing the curiosity gap' — we find something narcotic in the sense of tension and the resolution. Well, there's a lot of that in video games and we need to understand it.

At this year's Game Developers Conference, for example, Kent Hudson, a game designer at LucasArts, gave a fascinating talk on self-determination theory, which concerns the study of human motivation. He talked about how gamers need to own their worlds in order to be happy. This sort of analysis used to be almost taboo within games, but now studios are taking it on board.

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The best studios are also designing their titles around established reward systems. One of the best ways to reward employees is to enhance predictable annual bonuses with little treats added in every now and again — buying all your staff an iPod, for example. It keeps people much more motivated.

In a game, you're essentially pressing the same buttons and doing the same things over and over again, so you need those elements of the unexpected to stay compelled.

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But developers also know that there's more to games than systems and mechanics — story is becoming ever more important. Science-fiction adventure series Mass Effect has a sprawling story of intergalactic intrigue, while thrillers such as Heavy Rain and forthcoming Raymond Chandler-style detective adventure LA Noire , are loaded with the sort of compelling plot twists and shock revelations we're used to from movies. Indeed, narrative games have their own version of Hollywood's three-act structure, designed to keep us utterly hooked. Bram, Ice, and Duke all shook their heads.

That is vexing," Marrok snarled. Right dodgy. Makes me itch. But his only mission was to determine what Mathias had done with Anka and return her in the hopes of restoring Lucan's sanity. Clad head to toe in designer everything, he looked perfectly urbane and wealthy, the artful muss of his dark hair cut perfectly, just like his aristocratic features, all the way down to his cleft chin. If Mathias regained even half his power, the small but determined cabal of warriors assembled under Bram's direction were screwed, and every man in the room knew it. How could the Doomsday Brethren kill a wizard who had already returned from the dead once?

He had an army of slaves at his disposal. Caden could count the Doomsday Brethren on one hand. Bram winced. Mathias had stripped the souls from human bodies to create walking dead Anarki, for the purpose of helping Mathias enslave magickind and destroy the Doomsday Brethren. During their last battle, the black-blooded zombies had been plentiful — and immune to magic. A problem, indeed. Bram, one of the most pedigreed wizards today, had taken a human mate? Caden was inclined to help. Bram and Ice were always at each other's throats. If Bram needed wizards loyal to him for the Doomsday Brethren, why the devil had he picked Ice to join?

Caden wondered the same thing. Bram was usually the voice of sanity amidst all this magical muck. At the moment, he behaved as if he was crawling out of his skin, one step away from the mental ward. However, the Book of Doomsday is.

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Lying about? Magickind wasn't his issue, but if that book disappeared Bram didn't have to answer; the humiliation on his face did it for him. Where is the diary? The Doomsday Diary was the ultimate weapon in the magical war. Used properly, it was rumored to grant any wish, up to and including the world's annihilation.

People had died in Mathias's quest to obtain it. Lucan's life was in shambles because of it. The Doomsday Brethren had formed and were fighting a war to protect it. If Mathias obtained the book and used it to bring about doomsday — well, that was everyone's problem. Against anyone magical. I never imagined a human would know of the book's existence, much less that I had it. The only way she could know is if she's Mathias's pawn. I worry What if he has the diary now? What will he do to her? Marrok planted a friendly hand on Bram's shoulder. I should be able to It's confounding me. I could read her body with my touch, but not her thoughts.

I've never encountered such a woman before. Caden kept the thought to himself. Bram glanced at the paper. It's a rag. No one takes that rubbish seriously. Back home, several of the reporters at the Dallas Morning News were addicted to the paper's imaginative stories. They were more creative than The National Enquirer's. The byline belongs to a reporter named Sydney Blair. She's disturbingly close to the truth. Most news outlets wrote off the battle with Mathias as a foiled terrorist act, a gang initiation, or the work of a madman. Blair calls it 'an ongoing clash between powerful factions within magickind.

Few in magickind know of Mathias's return. Witch hunts, trials for heresy, and burnings at the stake weren't distant memories for a society whose citizens often lived to be one thousand. The seventeenth century was, relatively speaking, last year. People still killed what they didn't understand. I found no mention of her," Duke said. Mayhap she's one of Mathias's soulless minions," Marrok suggested. The other humans notice walking cadavers. Besides, ending you all would mean my brother's death. Would I be here saving him if I was willing to kill magickind?

Turning back to the newspaper, Duke went on, "Whoever she is, she's dangerous. The rest of the article is equally disturbing. It appears as if they were actually more dead than alive prior to the battle, but able to fight due to evil magic. But even he didn't sound convinced.

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Caden winced. Duke shook his head. He'll stop at nothing to tear down the establishment and replace it with his version of anarchy. Poor magical bastards. Duke laced his fingers together with quiet concern.

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Blair claims it's 'a witch who recently found herself tangled in this magical war. And possibly the first clue Caden had discovered to her whereabouts in a fortnight. It'll make the Inquisition seem like a bloody holiday. We must handle this situation immediately. The morning sun slanted through the office's open shutters, showing just how much strain the wizard was enduring. He swallowed, then pinned a wily gaze on Caden that made his blood freeze. You've worked at a newspaper. Now that I'm mated So you'll have to go and pry information from her the human way.

Perhaps he could placate them and help his brother. If he worked for Ms. Blair, he could discern if her anonymous source was Anka. Bram smiled tightly. Bloody bastard had Caden by the balls and he knew it. In order to make Lucan whole, he must find his brother's mate. At the moment, the reporter was his best — and only — lead. A dozen of the newspaper's employees twittered with nervous laughter, except her yummy new photographer, Caden MacTavish. Mortified, Sydney risked a glance at him.

The taut arms bunched over his wide chest and the chilly blue of his watchful eyes made her wince. Sydney slowly turned to the office lothario with a glare that let him know how little she appreciated his comment. He merely wagged his brows at her and grinned from ear to ear. The words somehow sounded polite. Caden had that upper crust Londoner sound, though muted by time elsewhere. But he could still say most anything and sound civilized.

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His current expression, on the other hand, rivaled Attila the Hun's on a bad day. Caden lit her up like a millennium fireworks show. She'd be thrilled if the man had sexual thoughts of her. But in the few days she'd worked with him, he had not appeared to notice her more than professionally, despite Jamie's delusions to the contrary. Safe in mummy's arms: Meghan Markle clutches baby Archie to her chest as she prepares to fly off to Met Police blames globe-trotting royals for a huge rise in overseas travel costs after cash spent on hotels Being first is hard… you must keep at it: Meghan Markle urges 'all young women and campaigners' to conquer Meghan Markle shares photo after tying yellow ribbon at spot where student was raped and murdered in Cape Next stop Malawi!

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