I think that the term "cinematic art" is misleading because it implies that games fall into a particular medium that I completely disagree with.
Well, what I mean by that is games are not any one thing, some are basically films (Heavy Rain), some have zero story and just want you to kill things (Hard Reset, though that may have had an inconsequential fluff plot), some aren't even nearly skeuomorphic (Super Hexagon, for instance), so I don't think you can talk about games being art without specifying what aspect you're talking about. As I said before, I consider Hideo Kojima to be an artist in terms of gameplay mechanics because that's just the level he's at, in every game he's come up with something new - unlike his writing, which constantly rewrites what he's done before. George Lucas did that with Star Wars, and look what people think of him now!
When you watch a film or read a novel, you take on the role of a passive bystander. You can witness the events, but you have no ability to influence them. In video games, you are an active participant, and so you can influence events and be influenced by them. This enables a deeper level of engagement with the audience, and allows developers to explore ideas that other text types cannot.
And yet games that actually leverage that unique dimension, they more often try to mimic films and I think they almost universally fail at it. Most often they try to basically place the player in the film and then that's it, the film continues. Ok so you might have to make an impactful decision that actually affects the outcome (which happens very rarely now) of the plot.
Far Cry 3, for instance, you say it becomes harder to justify rescuing your friends because you have to kill so many people to achieve it, but the game never actually presents not killing people as an alternative. It's like they're saying "Isn't it horrible that you have to kill all these people... Oh well, have a new gun!" which, again, completely invalidates any message they may have been conveying because they don't even believe it themselves. It's like in Blood Dragon, the protagonist complaining about the tutorial as a joke, but the joke loses all its meaning because even though the developers themselves know that people hate mandatory tutorials and are directly telling you that, they make you sit through it all the same!
I had a similar issue with Borderlands 2 (which, incidentally, was the last game with a plot that I really got into); you're told to hate Jack because he wants to kill everything on Pandora, yet you keep getting side quests from your friends to kill Pandoran life too, and the game tells you this with a completely straight face and never once hints at the double standard.
Whether you deem a cookie-cutter game, book or movie to be "art" depends entirely on what your definition of art is. If you want to rule out creative works that you perceive to have zero artistic merit, that's fine... but when others see artistic merit in these works, however little it may be, you'll tend to come off as a pretentious ass.
For instance, MGSV... how does its story not have artistic merit?
I know I'm not coming across well, but what I was trying to say before was that although there are interesting and unique elements to the games, they're all ultimately undone by the constant retcons and resurrections. How invested can you be in a story if you suspect the next installment might just undo vast swathes of it? Imagine you played Peace Walker before MGS 3; would you feel the same about executing The Boss if you knew she'd pretty much be in the next game? If you played MGS 4 before MGS 1, would you even react in any way to the CODEC chat where Snake tells Naomi he killed his own dad? That lack of originality, by bringing back dead characters or changing the past in such a way that feels like he's just doing it because he doesn't know what else to do to progress the story or get a certain reaction from the audience, completely undermines everything else he does because you end up having no faith in it and therefore it's hard to get invested in it. In my opinion.
I mean... regardless of whether you think the story as a whole was good or told well, the whole deal with parasites targeting individuals who speak certain languages is at least mildly original and interesting. Do you hold works to some threshold of originality they must meet to be considered art, which MGSV just fails to match in spite of having some degree of originality? If that's the case, the vast majority of creative works in any medium would probably also fail to cross this threshold as well. Way more than if you just ruled out things that had literally no creativity or originality.
Pretty much, yeah. It's a combination of a few things, though, originality isn't the only criterion but it's the one I think is most important. Intent is another big one, for instance if you were to copy a successful film just because it was successful and you want to be successful to (aka "playing it safe"), then that's not art, that's just a product, right? But if you wanted to tell the same story your way and it just happened to be unoriginal in that sense, then I think there can still be artistic merit as long as there is enough deviation from the thing that is being copied (or perceived to be being copied).
MGS copies from itself too often and I wonder if the intent in MGS 2 was to actually
tell the story that it claimed to be telling, or if (as I said) he just wanted to remake it and happened to come up with a good reason after the fact. I used to do that in school and then uni when I was given a brief that didn't really fit what I wanted to do. For instance, I was given a project to make something based on Howl by Allen Ginsberg, instead of trying to find inspiration from the poem I made three posters literally out of the poem - data visualisations of the words and language - because I wanted to do data visualisations. It was cheating, but it was technically fine.
Now regarding the state of the game industry, yes AAA games are often safe and/or simplistic... just like Hollywood. Though in both the case of Hollywood and the AAA game industry, that doesn't mean that nothing of artistic merit can ever manage to come from it. And the same goes for indie games... a lot of them might just focus on executing some unique gameplay idea, but there are definitely exceptions. You can tell an original story without having a bajillion dollar budget... it might be rough/unpolished, like a budget indie film might be, but if the core idea's good it will still have merit.
Maybe not nothing
, but not enough for playing-it-safe AAA films to be considered art on the same level as the usual examples of Citizen Kane or The Godfather. Two of my favourite films are Apocalypse Now and Blade Runner, one is based heavily on Heart of Darkness and the other on Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, but neither are direct book-to-film adaptations, they both differ a great deal and I do consider both to be art (although admittedly the latter is much more for mise-en-scene and the way it builds the city in which it's set, I love the former for the story it tells). That goes back to what I was saying about intent.
Indie games, on the other hand, I agree that a game of any budget can tell a story, but I'm mainly talking about games that work like films. I think? I apologise for this mess of a reply, it's quite difficult to field two conversations at once and put what I'm trying to say into words. But yeah, there are indie games that do interesting things like breaking the fourth wall (which, by the way, is something I loved about MGS 1: "Press the action button to regain your strength"), and actually The Beginner's Guide told a story in a fairly interesting way until it kind of fell apart at the end, and ok, I admit I would probably consider games like that to be art, but that's a pretty high bar! And again, I thought I was talking mainly about games that attempt to be cinematic, but maybe I wasn't, I can't remember.
TL, DR: I still don't consider MGS to be art in a cinematic sense because Hideo Kojima keeps undermining his own work and repeating himself. In terms of gameplay, visuals and audio, yeah, it's art... But the plot has been made pretty much pointless.