This is a phase-2 registered report, following up on a registered protocol proposing a study on the phenomenology of gaming disorder. The authors report how they carried out the proposed study and its most important results.
Overall, I like the manuscript a lot. The authors have taken care to report the sampling and interview procedure diligently and with much attention to detail. In fact, I think they have done an outstanding job compared to much other qualitative studies, which often lack the detail to comprehensively understand the data-generating process (and quantitative studies too, though I find this difficult to compare to the present manuscript).
With regards to the analysis, the authors chose the liberty to illustrate each identified theme with quotes from one participant each. Strictly speaking, their preregistration did (I think) not state they would do so, but this is probably largely due to the fact that the authors preregistered a relatively wide range of possible sample sizes. I do not consider it an actual violation of the preregistration protocol, but I can see how others might reasonably arrive at a different conclusion.
Concerning the results, I think the authors appropriately exercise restraint in generalising their observations. That is, the language with which they discuss their findings is carefully chosen not to make undue causal claims, and the authors also do not present their findings as “universal truths” applicable to the gaming population. Well done! That being said, as a quantitative researcher, I do think the great value of qualitative studies like this one is to generate hypotheses for further studies. I would encourage the authors to do so (even) more explicitly than is already done in the discussion of their findings, if possible.
The analysis of the expert interviews fell a little short compared to the gamer interviews (hardly more than a page in total). Was this intentional? I would have expected there to be a more in-depth integration of the group 1/2 interviews with the remarks of the experts, but I’m not sure whether it might be distracting from the purpose of the manuscript.
I had one final thought that I’d also like the authors to respond to, as I’m simply not certain whether they have given it any consideration already: one phenomenon that, I believe, many will recognize as they interact with people before and after (psycho)therapy is the dramatic change in the language patients use to describe their own experiences. That is, therapy, with its academic terminology and standardised manuals, can sometimes provide patients with a new and distinct vocabulary to reflect their sense of their condition.
I want to make clear here that I do not wish to suggest that the experiences they reported are in any way less “real” because of this potential effect; merely that the themes articulated by the participants might be shaped by the therapeutic process they went through, and not alone by their own subjective construction of their experiences with addiction.
On page 25, the authors speculate whether the experience reports might have been different had they interviewed their subjects five years ago – I think this is an important reflection, which could be further explored by considering that aside from “interpreting the world with and through gaming”, their participants in group 1 also interpret their experiences with gaming addiction (and, thus, the world) through the lens of a therapeutic process (successful or not) that might not have begun five years ago (and which those in group 2 also probably did not experience).
This might, in fact, also explain some of the commonalities between statements by group 1 and the experts. If devices from psychotherapy shape the language of those seeking it, then it should be little surprise that those offering the devices express similar accounts of their functions and effects.
I hope this was not too convoluted. I noticed I found it difficult to express this in my second language – apologies if I added more confusion than clarity here.