It is my belief that video games are an art form. Keep in mind that like any art form there are pieces with immense substance and value while other pieces are not at all significant from an artistic point of view (they can still be great for consumers – perhaps better than the better art). Example of artful games include Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. An example of the second category would include Angry Birds. Note that I’m not saying Angry Birds is not a good game or that it has no art direction but that it is not at the same level of Prince of Persia. If you really want to pull out a steaming pile of shit you can look at something like Big Rigs.
Now, what makes video games different? They have narrative elements, audible elements, and visual elements. At the core they are books, paintings, music, movies, and every other form put together into one. The big difference however is in the involvement of the consumer. Even in linear games the involvement of the player is more actively participating. Especially with newer games tending toward having choices and multiple endings they player is no longer a passive recipient of an intention, idea, or a story but an equal partner in crafting an experience.
Of course, people that don’t generally appreciate the artistic and abstract won’t get anything out of a video game. These are the same people who don’t read or appreciate Picasso and Monet. They will always exist but it does not take away from video games at all.
If you haven’t figured out already I’m pretty excited about video games. I’m really happy to see the direction that quality games are heading and there are definitely issues to deal with (as evidenced by Mass Effect 3’s ending controversy) the future is promising.