This was a catch phrase that was thrown around a lot last year.
As often is the case, a caveat: this is not an overview of the possibility of video games being considered as art in a whole, as that is not a subject for a blog post, but for a book.
I think a more accurate phrase would have been “games that aren’t retarded”. It was used to apply to games like flOw and Braid and other “arty” games that try to evoke emotions other than power-up-wanty and head-shot-givey. In retrospect, maybe the term ‘expressionist games’ would have been a bit closer to the mark.
As far as I’m concern, the watershed game, thanks hype, would probably be Braid. Its much-touted writing was… well, it was atrocious. It was overwrought, limp-wristed whinery, clearly written by someone who loves their thesaurus. Just because a word has more syllables does not make it inherently better. (this is a lesson that I am still learning) The painterly art and (sorry, I’m a sucker for the cello) lovely music helped really helped with the dreamy setting. The ending, however, was surprisingly touching, and brilliantly executed, using traditional video game mechanics in combination with its own well-implemented relatively-new-fangled time reversal… uh… powers to great storytelling effect.
All that said, do I think it was art? I think I’d say that it is an interesting game with very clever puzzles and at least an attempt at writing a complex, interesting story… that sadly came out needlessly complicated and difficult to empathize with. As I, a relatively arty artpants am giving the writing such a hard time, I’m kind of curious how it fared in the Gears-and-Halo set. Yo guy, what a fag.
After I get my various errands done today, I think I may give the game another playthrough (two hours, tops) and see if the writing has gotten any better. Maybe they patched it.