No matter what side you fall on — whether you think video games already are art, or never could be — the fact of the matter is that without that classification, games were denied key protections and benefits enjoyed by movies, music and the like. Well, no longer: the National Endowment for the Arts is accepting games for the first time.
Video game development will now be considered by the NEA in a category called "Arts in Media," where games will duke it out with other submissions from TV, film, radio and even satellite-transmitted and Web content for grants. The NEA is a part of the U.S. government, and uses taxpayer money to fund artistic projects.
What does this mean? If you're an independent developer, say, you could pitch your game idea as an art project rather than a business proposal. You could then score a grant to develop your project rather than relying on interest from a game publisher, which would more likely than not rule on the viability of your idea based on how well it could sell.
This is a pretty important time for small developers, too. Mobile platforms and the Internet and — where games can be cheaply sold directly by the developer — are allowing small teams or even individuals to express themselves through video games. Just look at Minecraft, which made its solo developer millions, or Super Brothers: Sword & Sorcery, one of many indie games that released to rave reviews and changed the way people thought about what a game could be. It's a space that artists, programmers, musicians and more are playing in, and it's just as viable an outlet for creativity or expression as any other artistic medium.