Oh god, not you again.
I’m not really invested in the debate about whether games are or are not art; were my hand forced I’d be more likely take the ‘no’ side, though not for the convincing reasons suggested by Roger Ebert and other critics.
When Roger Ebert says games aren’t art he’s coming at it from a film critic’s perspective and from that perspective he’s probably right. Ebert’s argument breaks down to two very neat halves – quality and authorship – and on both points games come up short. Ebert, you see, is looking for the Mona Lisa and the Kubrick we don’t have.
“To my knowledge” said Ebert back in 2005, “no one in or out of the field has ever been able to cite a game worthy of comparison with the great dramatists, poets, filmmakers, novelists and composers.” He’s right, too. And he’s right when he says “Video games by their nature require player choices, which is the opposite of the strategy of serious film and literature, which requires authorial control.”
Auteur theory is complex enough to have entire books written on the subject so let’s not get into it here beyond a very brief and inadequate starting point. A director can be said to be an ‘auteur’ if a film is recognisably his or her vision in spite of the film being made by many other hands. To put it another way, when you can tell a Martin Scorsese movie is a Martin Scorsese movie in spite of all the investors, execs, producers, and Hollywood jackasses trying mess with his shit, it’s because he’s an auteur.
Most games fail the auteur test in just the same way most movies fail the test. Only a very small number of Hollywood movies qualify as art by the critic’s standard.