What exactly is art? Opinions on that subject range from the inclusion of pretty much anything to very stiffly-defined critical definitions. Over time, different mediums have each struggled to be recognized as true art. The most recent struggle is, perhaps, one of the most fiercely debated: are video games art?
The past decade has seen video games begin to define themselves more and more in terms of other artistic mediums, like film. 2007's Bioshock and Mass Effect, for example, both feature complex stories on par with many films and novels. Mass Effect has also been praised for its stunning cinematography, detailed character development and film-like musical score. GameZone.com even went as far as to call the game's universe the best they "have encountered since George Lucas created Star Wars."
However, the new standards being set by modern games are just the tip of the iceberg. The argument for games as art goes back much further; all the way back to the beginning. On the surface, Pong is completely inartistic. It is comprised of three lines, four numbers and a square. The game could be called generic and bland; it certainly lacks any semblance of story or character. However, there may be more underneath the surface.
Pong, in many ways, is like a painting that has a white dot in the middle of a black canvas. Simple and safe, it may be totally unremarkable, but if you look at it long enough you begin to see more. The simplicity has merit. If the painting were hung in a gallery, most people would call it art. Could Pong not be called art as well? If not, what is the difference?