Critics of gaming disorder (GD; i.e., Internet gaming disorder in the DSM-5; Gaming disorder in the ICD-11) have expressed concerns about the potential risks of misclassification (e.g., false positives). An important consideration of relevance to this discussion is the extent to which commonly used screening instruments contain appropriate, sensible, and relevant items. The aim of this review was to evaluate the face validity of items within current tools for GD.
A systematic review of databases identified 29 instruments. An item bank ( n = 417 items) was independently evaluated by three professional raters (i.e., a senior academic in clinical psychology, a senior psychometrician, and an academic/clinical psychologist) according to guidelines for defining and measuring addiction and gaming disorder.
Evaluation of the item bank identified issues related to: scope (i.e., “scope creep” or items of questionable relevance); language (i.e., confusing language, unusual wording or syntax); and overpathologizing (i.e., pathologizing typical and/or beneficial aspects or consequences of gaming). A total of 71 items across 23 tools had at least one face validity issue.
Most items (83%) demonstrated satisfactory face validity and were consistent with either the DSM-5 or ICD-11 GD classification. However, many tests contain at least one item that may pathologize normal gaming behaviors. Such items refer to basic changes in mood when gaming, a desire to play or continue playing games, and experiencing immersion when gaming. This analysis highlights the challenges of screening for problematic behaviors that are thought to arise within the context of normal recreational activities.