Healing the world, one hit point at a time

Anna Sort is a nurse, a (pro) gamer, a former Blizzard employee and a visionary. And she believes that games are the answer to healthcare’s most itching problems.

The first time Anna Sort from Barcelona, took a controller in her hands she was a baby. “I was three, playing video games with my brother”, she recalls. Her brother grew up to become a programmer; she went on to become a certified nurse. But Anna’s passion for gaming has not waned over the years, and while pursuing a career in healthcare, she landed a job at Blizzard Entertainment, working there as a nurse with and for gamers. Her experience at Blizzard, as well as her continuous involvement with MMOs like World of Warcraft and League of Legends (as a player, guild member and participant in a pro-gamer team) has led her to realize that games may well be the solution for the crises that plague the healthcare industry. Coming to Amsterdam for the 2nd Games for Health Europe conference next week, she will unveil her plan in front of a crowd of both game industry and medical professionals.

“By 2020, most of the global burden of disease may be attributed to chronic illneses”, she explains, referring to the World Trade Organization’s data on the growing shift the health industries experience, where treating outbursts of the flu give way to years of carefull management of known conditions. “Nurses have a lot of experience caring for patients with chronic diseases, but lack the means to monitor the learning processes of patients once they leave the hospital. That’s where MMORPGs come in”.

After working as a nurse, Anna went back to the university and earned a Master’s degree on Cognitive Systems and Interactive Media, culminating in a thesis on designing an exergaming platform to combat child obesity. In her view,if World of Warcraft teaches users in very short amounts of time many things from spells to roles and gaming slang, a game about diabetes for instance, can too. Give these kids an in-game-platform to discuss their activities and they will even go as far as teaching each other. In order to do this, she states, requires “Understanding patients and understanding videogames”.

And is this healer also practices her skills in the digital realm? Apparently so, judging from her WoW resume, that around spanned six years starting 2005. “I Started of with a druid (Alliance, elf), healer for Vanilla, when Burning Crusade came out I leveled up a paladin (Horde, elf) healer to raid with some spanish people I met, and by the end I decided I wanted to have a Shadow priest (Horde, elf) and do damage for a change in Wrath of the Lich King”. She eventually went back to the druid before quitting the game in favor of LoL and few other games such as The secret World and Left 4 Dead 2. “I have a ton of alts which I actually raided with, 2 warlock, 2 hunters and a shaman! My lowest character is a level 40 rogue. 6 years is a loooong gaming time!”


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