Tragedy has turned into a nationwide effort to help an aspiring video game developer.

Ana Kessel, 20, was the victim of a hit-and-run accident on Nov. 11 in Raleigh, losing her leg in the accident. The intern at Insomniac Games’ North Carolina Studio (located in Durham), who was worked as a graphics artist on “Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus,” had no insurance. When news of her accident spread across social networks, local and far-reaching game studios stepped in to help.

Epic Games raised $3,000 for Ana by auctioned signed Gears of War memorabilia on eBay. A replica original Lancer went for $1,200, a retro Lancer sold for $910, and a gold retro Lancer was won for $890.

On top of that, a generous Gears fan who prefers to remain anonymous reached out to Marlow and arranged to give Ana an additional $20,000 in cash.

Last  week, Activision studios Infinity Ward (makers of Call of Duty: Ghosts) and Treyarch (the developer of Call of Duty: Black Ops II) stepped in to help.

Insomniac’s headquarters are based in Los Angeles, which is home to both of these Activision studios. The game companies put eight signed games and merchandise on eBay to help raise additional money. (The items can be found here for those interested in bidding:

In addition to these eBay auctions, those who are interested in helping Anna can visit this site:

Over $57,000 has already been raised by game makers and gamers around the world.

“Pretty Surreal”

“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t the absolute best thing to happen to me as a result of my accident. I woke up in the ICU at Wake expecting just my family and friends, but instead was also met with the support of Insomniac, my industry, and thousands of strangers from around the world,” Kessel told WRALTechWire in an exclusive interview. “I didn’t even make my fundraiser page  - a former colleague of mine did – so really it all came as a huge surprise. I read every article that was written about me, and watched as I became a ‘celebrity’ from my hospital overnight. This is the kind of thing that you only see happen in movies, so it’s been pretty surreal.”

While at Insomniac, Kessel focused primarily on supporting the company’s character art team. She helped optimize assets for the game and even had a few Nightmare Box “heads” make it in the final release. Nightmare Box is a weapon in the game similar to a Jack in the Box. It is used to scare enemies and stun them temporarily. It features multiple “heads” that pop out randomly.

“We had a few people that were in touch with Ana when the accident happened,” said Tim Salvitti, community manager at Insomniac Games. “Soon after, they spread the word through the company. Individuals donated and shared Ana’s fundraising page to help cover her medical expenses. Insomniac as a company chipped in $5,000. We also posted and shared the page on our social media channels to help garner support. From there it just went viral and we are truly surprised and impressed with how much support Ana has received.”

Salvitti said fans have banded together to help Kessel as well. One of Insomniac’s longtime community members set up Ebay auctions to sell his own Ratchet & Clank collectables, including many personal items he had signed by the development team.

“We love our fans and they have always been there for us,” said Salvitti. “It is truly special to be able to have people care about you as a company that much to donate their own money or items to help out someone like Ana.”

“Even if it wasn’t for the donations, I’ve received hundreds of emails and messages from people who only know me from my story,” said Kessel. “That alone has been a blessing. I know not everyone is as fortunate to have this much positive attention sent their way, so I’m grateful for all of it.”

Fast Recovery

All of this outreach from gamers and game makers has had a positive impact on Kessel’s recovery. She has had no complications since the amputation and she believes she set the record for shortest stay in the hospital after an amputation.

“My age has a lot to do with it, and besides my leg I was pretty much unharmed,” said Kessel. “The doctors still said I’d be in rehab for at least 1-3 months. I was only there for one week, then went home right away. The hardest part has just been dealing with the constant pain, but I’m used to that by now. I couldn’t do it without my family, boyfriend and my friends who have been taking good care of me since day one.”

Since she’s been out of the hospital she was able to play through the Ratchet & Clank game she worked on. And she’s addicted to the new Nintendo games Animal Crossing New Leaf and the new Pokemon X. Kessel hopes to continue her career in game development making the types of games she would want to play.

“I didn’t chose to be an artist in the gaming field for the money or fame, I do it because it’s what I love,” said Kessel. “My specialty is making characters, props and environments (essentially the in-game art), but I also enjoy concepting. Seeing the support from fellow game devs is a huge motivator to get back to work asap, and a reminder that I chose the right path.”

With the Christmas season upon us, this story sheds gamers in a different light than the mainstream media sometimes portrays them.

“The amount of support that has poured in from not only this incident, but all our charity efforts and other trying times we have had as a company (not too long ago we lost an employee from the Burbank studio), further validates how truly special gamers are,” said Salvitti. “They don’t need to know someone on a personal level. They don’t even need to be social media friends with someone. They just know when something is wrong and band together in ways rarely seen in other industries.”

Kessel is looking forward to walking again soon.

“Right now it’s just a matter of making sure I don’t fall, waiting for the swelling to go down, and getting into a prosthetic as soon as possible,” said Kessel. “I’m just taking things day by day, doing whatever it takes so I can walk again by early next year.”