In the same way that graphic novels are literature, I believe that (video) games are art. Of course, there is a wide range of quality. In the same way that not everybody draws like Picasso, yet I would still call somebody who paints for a hobby an artist.
I found that – surprisingly in my opinion – interactivity or being a digital medium do not seem to be the biggest opposition of some critics to say that games are art. In fact, many will appoint that video games are not made by a single person, while art is made by a single person. I personally find this reason quite lame. Mainly because this will also disqualify movies as art. Funny enough, in France is quite common to know cinema as the seventh art**. Being Spanish, I can say that I have also heard this statement as well, yet for what I have found in a very brief research, it seems like this concept has not spread through English culture.
Yes, movies and video games make use of multiple people with various expertise. Even solo developers usually make use of another professionals, even if it is just by buying assets and using them in their games. This cannot be a surprise: the technical developments from the last 130 years*** has made more and more difficult for a single person to be an expert in all the different roles for a movie. Even although it can be important for a director to be acquainted with different roles****, it is unlikely that the same person will do all the possible roles in a multi-million production as they happen nowadays
Games are way more recent, yet a similar development has been going on: the first video game was made by physicists (coincidence?) William Higinbotham in 1958 and was something similar like the later Pong that was released in 1970. On the other hand, a well known game like Grand Theft Auto is extremely complex, so it costs close to 140 millions in development and require multiple teams of people.
All of the above is fine, but why are games art? Well, we should go to the definition of art itself, which by the way is not straightforward. I know this because I look for one for a while, and I couldn’t find a fully convincing one, but feel free to let me know if you find a good one. After looking around I think that many definitions can be simplified by something along the following:
Art is the making of something that has emotional power.
I find this simplification adequate because it keeps a clear core concept: art connects with our emotions. It can be beautiful, sad, can make use laugh or cry, but we always get a reaction from it. And that is something that games do when they are well done. From the rage quit when playing Dark Souls to crazy laughing with Grand Theft Auto or the feeling of exhaustion after half an hour of hardcore Doom. Games connect with our feelings like painting, sculptures, architecture, music, dancing, poetry or movies are able to do.
*In case you are wondering, the seventh arts are: architecture, sculpture, painting, music, poetry, dance and cinema. And some times video games are labelled as the eighth.
***The kinetoscope was demonstrated in 1981, while the Lumiere brothers first public film was projected in 1895 (see more here)
****Kurosawa mentions in his autobiography how he trained to be a director by working through multiple roles, for example.