Abstract: The recognition of excessive forms of media entertainment use (such as uncontrolled video gaming or the use of social networking sites) as a disorder is a topic widely discussed among scientists and therapists, but also among politicians, journalists, users, and the industry. In 2018, when the World Health Organization (WHO) decided to include the addictive use of digital games (gaming disorder) as a diagnosis in the International Classification of Diseases, the debate reached a new peak. In the current article, we aim to provide insights into the public debate on gaming disorder by examining data from Twitter for 11 months prior to and 8 months after the WHO decision, analyzing the (change in) topics, actors, and sentiment over time. Automated content analysis revealed that the debate is organic and not driven by spam accounts or other overly active ‘power users.’ The WHO announcement had a major impact on the debate, moving it away from the topics of parenting and child welfare, largely by activating actors from gaming culture. The WHO decision also resulted in a major backlash, increasing negative sentiments within the debate.
Keywords: addiction; content analysis; entertainment research; games; gaming disorder; social media