Are video games art? That we’re even having this conversation means there’s no definitive answer, which means that it comes down to “because I say so!”. A lot of the arguments for video games being art will often interpret the definition of art as being something which can accommodate video games, but before arguing why something can be classified within a specific category, you also have to define what the thing is first.
The video game is still a very recent medium compared to literature or film, which have existed long enough to develop into something that people understand. We still don’t really know what video games are capable of being, because the boundaries are still being pushed. We’re the pioneers, we’re just starting it. Therefore, any artistic merit that video games will ever come to have will only ever be given by students of the subject in years to come, in the same way that the first wave of film critics, like Truffaut, understood film making principles enough to do things with it that hadn’t been done before. Creators often don’t understand their creations as much as their fans. The first art films were made by people who’d studied films that came before in order to understand the process, and then use that process to different ends. That’s how I expect video games will develop. We understand how video games work, but there doesn’t yet to appear to be anyone who’s developed a video game in a way that establishes and redefines the medium in the same way that happened with film.
Comparing video games specifically to film is, I understand, a biased perspective, but in arguing the artistic merits of a genre, there needs to be an example genre with-which to compare it, and film is the closest one.
I don’t know if the definition of a video game will ever be defined in my lifetime, and that’s okay. In maybe a hundred years time, video games will be studied as much, if not more than, film. And its students will understand the important ones, which form a pathway of evolution of techniques that eventually lead to whatever video games have become by that time. The dots can only be connected by looking backwards, and we’re still basically at the beginning of the trail. We need more samples, and that will take time. But we do at least have a reference for how our understanding will develop. We mustn’t get ahead of ourselves; this is how I think video games will come to be considered art, if they ever do. All we can do is stay focused on the video games of today. We have to lay the foundations. Because, compared to the video game players of the future, we don’t know anything at all.