Recognising addiction won’t stigmatise all gamers

Gaming disorder has been included in the World Health Organisation’s ICD-11 listings (the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases), making it an official diagnosis – but debate continues about whether the addiction diagnosis may have various negative consequences.

“Some clinicians argue that the gaming addiction label might create stigma toward regular gamers, by conveying the idea that gaming is inherently harmful,” says Flinders University’s Associate Professor Daniel King. “It’s an argument that some have accepted without any evidence.”

Flinders University researchers now have measured the effect of addiction-based and non-addiction-based conceptualisations of problem gaming on the stigma of gamers – and found that the gaming addiction category generates negligible stigma toward gamers.

The Flinders researchers’ randomised controlled trial involved giving two groups of participants different information about gaming disorder. One identified it as a type of addiction, and the other linked problem gaming to lifestyle choices and rejected the notion that gaming was addictive.

“We were interested in whether explaining problem gaming as an addiction would affect how participants react emotionally to different gamers,” says lead researcher by Christina Galanis, a PhD student from the College of Education Psychology and Social Work at Flinders University.

“It was interesting that participants who received the addiction information about problem gaming tended to be less blaming of gamers for their problems, compared to those given the non-addiction information.

“We found that the addiction information made negligible difference to people’s stigma responses, including avoidance, anger and fear, which showed that the diagnostic category seems unlikely to be an important influence on stigma toward gaming.”

The research – “Gaming disorder and stigma-related judgements of gaming individuals: An online randomized controlled trial”, by Christina Galanis, Nathan Weber, Paul Delfabbro, Joel Billieux, and Daniel King – has been published in Addiction. The paper can also be accessed via ResearchGate:

“The concept of gaming addiction seems unlikely to be an important influence on the public stigma of gaming,” says Associate Professor King, “so this study is important for showing the value of the diagnostic category and that it is unlikely to affect other perceptions of gaming as a normal recreational activity.”

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