If there was one argument that defined the word redundant, it would be the age old "are games art?" debate. Art is the evocation of emotion through creative means, plain and simple. In fact, i would personally consider every minuscule jig saw piece in the puzzle that is day to day life to be art given application, whether it be the sidewalks which support my steps, or the big macs which clog my arteries-- but i digress. Games are undoubtedly art, and have been since pixels were first displayed on television screens over 30 years ago.
So why does this question persist? The most apparent reason can be accredited to the common misconception that all art is art with merit. When the word "art" pops into the minds of the general populace, the Mona Lisa is seen; bob Dylan is heard; The great Gatsby is realized, and Halo is most certainly not found. This is where the entire debate has reared its ugly head. Again, I will reiterate: "Art is the evocation of emotion through creative means, plain and simple". This means that a 7 year old's refrigerator drawing of a crayon elephant is just as much a work of art as anything painted to life by Vango. It may not have the merit or sophistication of the latter, but it fits the bill just the same.
This brings me to video games. It is almost universally agreed-- amongst gamers as well-- that video games are in a fetal stage among the ranks of maturity. For every shallow movie tie-in there is a senseless first person shooter; a recycled sports update; a Japanese rape simulator, all of which plagued by putrid writing and a strong emphasis on technical prowess over narrative substance. This is a medium devoid of merit. However, it is also a medium which most certainly deserves the title of "art form".
Thankfully, there is a small but steady movement growing from within the gaming industry; one that may lead the medium to the adolescence which has so long taunted it.
Games are striving for merit.
There have always been outliers within the industry (the silent hills and the system shocks to name a few), but "artistic" games have never broken free of niche status. That is until recently when the accessibility of online outlets has lead to a boom in "independent" game development. Since then, dozens of games free of the constraints of publisher interest and public adherence have been created. Braid, world of Goo, and Limbo are three recent examples of this trend, and all of which are worthy of true respectability; or true merit.
Roger Ebert once said that games are not, nor will they ever be art. When he said this, I heard a man who felt threatened. This is a man who dedicated his life to the medium of cinema, which has dominated the world of art for the past century. Film is a medium which blends the sense of sight and sound into a single, expressive language. Film is a story teller which doesn't need dialogue, description, or brush strokes to convey its message. It would seem that the trend of artistic dominance in society has likened itself to the multitude of senses which that medium can penetrate, and film currently holds the medal-- that is until video games.
Video games have the potential to tap into our creativity farther than any medium preceding them. In theory, video games can present the visual and sonic prowess of film while giving the player the ability to tell the story. Cinema is an art of 3rd person, where the viewer is at best a bystander seeing the story unravel from a disclosed, and disjointed perspective; video games make the bystander the storyteller. Video games are an art of 1rst person.
Even Roger Ebert sees this unmatched potential within the medium. Now, its all up to the publishers, and the developers to see it. Stop pushing graphics further down the uncanny valley; stop needlessly recycling past elements of previous recycled elements, and start looking towards the future where video games have a future.