Background and aims: The inclusion of gaming disorder (GD) in the International Classification of Diseases 11th Revision (ICD-11) has generated scholarly debate, including claims about its potential stigmatizing effects on the wider gaming population. The present study aimed to estimate the effect of addiction-based and non-addiction–based conceptualizations of problem gaming on stigma of gamers. Design: This preregistered experiment involved a 2 (health information: addiction-related or non-addiction-related) × 3 (vignette: problem, regular or casual gamer) randomized, between-subjects design. Setting: An international sample of participants was recruited via Prolific in June and July 2021. Participants: Participants were eligible (n = 1228) if they were aged 35 to 50 years, played video games for no more than 6 hours per week and did not endorse DSM-5 or ICD-11 criteria for GD. Intervention and comparator: Participants were provided with an explanation of problem gaming as related to either an addictive disorder (i.e. ‘addiction’ explanation) or personal choice and lifestyle factors (i.e. ‘non-addiction’ explanation). Measurements: The Attribution Questionnaire (AQ) and Universal Stigma Scale (USS) assessed stigma toward each gamer vignette. Vignettes described a problem gamer (with features of GD); a regular gamer (frequent gaming; some life interference); and a casual gamer (infrequent gaming; no life interference). Findings: Problem gamer vignettes (mean [M] = 113.3; 95% CI = 111.5–115.4) received higher AQ stigma ratings than regular (M = 94.0; 95% CI = 91.9–95.9) and casual gamers (M = 80.1; 95% CI = 78.2–82.1). Although significant, the effect of health information type on AQ stigma ratings was negligible (addiction group [M = 97.6; 95% CI = 95.9–99.1], non-addiction group [M = 94.1; 95% CI = 92.6–95.8]). However, the addiction information group scored lower on USS blame and responsibility than the non-addiction information group with at least a small effect (99.1% confidence). Conclusions: Framing of problem gaming as an addictive disorder or non-addictive activity appears to have a negligible effect on stigma of different gamers among middle-age adults with minimal gaming experience. The concept of ‘gaming addiction’ seems unlikely to be an important influence on public stigma of gaming.
- gaming disorder