UPDATE (4/5/2018):

While savvy Google Play users have had access to the soft-launch for a few months now, the rest of the world will finally gain access to the hallowed halls of Hogwarts when Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery finally launches on iOS and Android devices on April 15, according to VentureBeat. Read below for full details of what you can expect when you launch the game for yourself in a couple weeks.

UPDATE (1/23/2018):

Looks like the app is coming sooner than we thought. Originally slated for a “2018” release date, Touch Arcade reports that prospective students are able to attend Hogwarts now, as long as you have an Android device.

The game is currently listed on Google Play as an “unreleased app”, which likely means this is a soft launch meant to test out the servers and other online functionality before the game gets a wide public release on all mobile devices and storefronts. Still no word on when the game is “officially” out or when iOS device owners can expect to play it, but if you’ve got a compatible Android device, you can hop in now and let the rest of us know if it’s good.

Original Story:

If you’ve ever wondered what life would be like at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, wonder no more. A brand new game called Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery is set to release in 2018 for Apple and Android mobile devices, giving you the opportunity to create your own character and go on adventures in the magical school.

Described as “the first mobile game in which players can create their own character and experience life as a Hogwarts student”, Hogwarts Mystery will let you master new spells, attend classes taught by your favorite (or least favorite) instructors, make friends, and battle rivals. You can see a brief glimpse of the game in the trailer embedded above.

Hogwarts Mystery is the first title released under Portkey Games, a label created by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment to publish games based on J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World. The title is being developed by mobile studio Jam City, who have worked on games like Marvel Avengers Academy and Panda Pop.

There aren’t a ton of other concrete details available yet, but you can register for updates by visiting the game’s official website.

Game designers are magicians in their own way. The tools may be different, but the goals are the same: to provide a sense of wonder and excitement that transcends mundane reality. And like magicians, the ways game designers achieve this effect often involves lying right to your face.

Video games are filled with numbers, stats, meters, and gauges, and players interact with them by moving characters through digital worlds, clicking on boxes, defeating enemies, managing resources and so on. Through these mechanics, games build an implicit dialog of trust with the player over time: “These numbers I’m showing you are true,” the game says, “and you can rely on them to make your way through my challenges.” The secret, however, is that many times what the game tells you is a complete fabrication.

Many examples of the deception players experience right under their noses were exposed when Jennifer Scheurle, lead designer of virtual reality game Earthlight at Opaque Space, tweeted out an open-ended question asking developers to reveal the hidden mechanics behind some of the best moments in games. She received a flood of responses, each one revealing how designers lie to or omit information from the player in order to manipulate their emotions.

Like how Doom messes with your perception of health to make you feel like you survived harrowing encounters by the skin of your teeth:

Or how Half-life 2 makes sure something cool happens as often as possible whenever bullets miss you:

Or how initial surprise attacks in Bioshock aren’t deadly at all:

These are just a few choice examples of the many found in that treasure trove of a Twitter thread, but there’s one constant found in all of them, regardless of game or genre: none of the tricks developers use are meant to punish the player or make them feel like a loser. In fact, many are there to provide the illusion that the player is on the precipice of failure while actually giving them a leg-up on the competition.

One of the most important tools a game designer has is the ability to play with perception. Through visual tricks, audio cues, interface tweaks, along with the code running under the hood, designers can create the illusion that a player is in complete control—or make them feel like they have no control at all. Game designers can even mess with numbers in a way that makes players feel luckier than they actually are.

For instance, a game called Peggle requires players to drop balls down a series of complex grids in an attempt to hit and remove each stage’s orange-colored pegs. As the balls fall, they bounce and react according to angles and physics. Except… they don’t—at least, not all the time. According to statement made by Peggle designer Jason Kapalka in an article on Nautilus, “the seemingly random bouncing of the balls off of pegs is sometimes manipulated to give the player better results,” especially in the early stages. Adhering to proper physics may be realistic, but it can be discouraging to people who are just starting to learn the ropes. Tweaking the player’s ‘luck’ ensures that they’ll keep going.

Similar decisions were made in the strategy game Civilization to keep players from getting frustrated. Using actual probability sounds like the right thing to do, but it upsets players when real-world math doesn’t line up with how their brains perceive that math should play out. For example, if Civilization players were told they’d win a particular battle 33% of the time, they’d get frustrated if they tried it three times and never won. So designer Sid Meier opted to go with perception of how the statistics would play out over the reality; according to the article, “if your odds of winning a battle were one in three, the game guaranteed that you’d win on the third attempt.”

Game designers exploit luck not to defeat players, but rather to make them feel good about playing their games. In a sense, these not-so-random numbers actually appear more fair than true randomness, and seasoned developers know when and how to fudge the numbers for a more fun experience.

Because that’s what the end result of all of this deception really is: fun. People come to games to be challenged, yes, but to also experience emotional highs and lows, along with the narrative provided by the story and moment-to-moment gameplay. And like a magician faking out a hapless volunteer with a rubber knife, game designers lie and cheat to surprise, delight, and above all, keep us glued to the edge of our seats.

Most video games entice players with exciting stories, mind-bending puzzles, or intense combat. Not so with Desert Bus, possibly the most boring game of all time, where all you do is drive a bus with twitchy steering at a plodding 45 miles per hour across the desert in real time. No explosions. No aliens or monsters. And no pauses for bathroom breaks. Now you can experience all that glory in virtual reality.

Desert Bus began as a minigame in Penn & Teller’s Smoke & Mirrors, a video game collection for Sega CD that wound up never being released, and grew into something of a subcultural touchstone. In fact, there’s now a charity event where stalwart players sit through the entire thing and people donate while watching their suffering.

If this sounds like your idea of fun, there is now a listing for a VR edition on video game platform Steam for PC. It can be played on the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift headsets. It also has partial support for motion controllers and gamepads, or you can play the plain ol’ digital game if you don’t own any VR tech. This version adds multiplayer into the mix, and players can also honk the bus’ horn or tune into the radio for programming featuring Penn Jillette himself. Dinosaur Games developed Desert Bus VR, and the game is being published by Gearbox Software. It’s out now and it’s free, so you can see for yourself what all the fuss (or lack thereof) is about.

Disclaimer: Randy Pitchford is CEO and President of Gearbox Software and owner of GeniiOnline.

Desert Bus for Hope 2017 is currently three full days into its marathon of the world’s most boring video game ever made, and based on the current influx of donations, it shows no signs of stopping.

For those who don’t know, Desert Bus is a game featured within a cancelled Sega CD compilation known as Penn & Teller’s Smoke and Mirrors, which contains a handful of fake, broken, or otherwise frustrating games that you could use to mess with your friends. One of those games is called ‘Desert Bus’, which simulates an eight-hour road trip from Tuscson, AZ to Las Vegas, NV—in real time. The bus cannot go above 45 miles per hour, and you have to pay attention to your steering because the bus constantly veers to the right and will crash if you’re not careful. Complete the journey and the game awards you one point and sends you right back in the other direction.

The Sega CD compilation would end up canceled, but a prototype of a handful of the included games, including Desert Bus, made its way out onto the internet. It was picked up by Vancouver, BC comedy troupe LoadingReadyRun in 2007, who then decided to stream themselves playing the game non-stop for charity. The group has been streaming the game every year since, raising over $3.8 million for charity to date.

Donations made to Desert Bus for Hope contribute to a threshold that, when cleared, adds another hour to the required playtime for the marathon. The team has been playing for three full days, and currently has 143 hours left to go, which should put their finish date at Friday, November 24—if they don’t get any more donations, that is.

Money contributed during the marathon will go to Child’s Play, a charity that purchases and donates video games, consoles, and toys to children’s hospitals and domestic violence shelters all over the world. For more information, including donation info, auction prizes, as well as a link to the video feed, check out the official site.