The Mystery of Minecraft

Markus Persson and Jens Bergensten built a computer game without the gore or glitz of a typical hit. So why are millions of players addicted?

Aorta for TIME

Persson, far left, and Bergensten, the minds behind Minecraft, brandishing the game's pixelated swords

Since December 2011, Jacob Granberry and Will Blew have been overseeing a land-development effort of truly epic proportions. Covering more territory than the city of Los Angeles, it's about 70% complete and already contains about 8,000 structures. It's so sprawling and ambitious, though, that nobody knows for sure just what's there. "I haven't seen near everything, and I started the damn project," says Granberry.

Their undertaking happens to be a digital re-creation of Westeros, the fabled continent from George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire books and the HBO series based upon them, Game of Thrones. And they happen...

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