Debate here! Portal? It's a quirky, funny puzzle game. A work of art? Not even close. Just being different doesn't make it art. Ocarina of Time? Immersive. Excellent game. Solid narrative. Doesn't make it a work of art. Same with BioShock.
Good graphics, music and/or narrative do not make games artistic. None of those games I mentioned (Having not played Braid of Shadow of the Colossus) have gameplay which helps acheive an artistic vision. The closest games I've played have been Ico and I Wanna Be The Guy.
The Mona Lisa? Just a picture of a woman with a wonky smile. Nice to look at, but art? No. The Lord of the Rings? Immersive, great book, solid narrative. Doesn't make it a work of art. The Godfather had a fantastic story and masterful acting, along with solid direction, but does that make it art?
My point here is that the arguments you're using against those games being art can equally be used against things which the majority of people do consider art. To me, art means something that'll evoke emotions, really make me feel something. I'm currently re-playing the original Mass Effect, and just the other day I finished Noveria. Since I'm the kind of guy who always plays the good guy, I'm being evil on this playthrough, which meant killing the Rachni queen:
It genuinely upset me. Despite being, at the back of my mind, fully aware that it was a fictional character I felt awful when I made the decision to kill her. I had a much more powerful emotional reaction from a simple choice in a video game than I would have to most classical works of art. That is the "artistic vision" that games are aiming to achieve - to make us feel, whether it's exultation at finally beating a boss, joy at a happy ending, fear when stumbling around Silent Hill in the fog or anger at ourselves for what we've chosen to do within the game.
In response to "The Indie Space/Time Continuum" from The Escapist Forum: Being a basement game dev is a niche hobby, and like all niche hobbies it gets very lonely at times. Even if you are surrounded by friends and family you can't help shake the feeling that nobody understands what you are doing and why. I think meet ups like the ones in the article are more about "walking among your own people" than building up collaborative teams.
Imagine being the only Victorian era costume maker or RC airplane flier in a small town. People know what your hobby is and generally respect you for it, but they don't get excited over the same things you do. Ultimately you get the impression they are humoring your hobby based rants rather than appreciating the struggles and victories behind them.
Indie meet ups like the Game Jam and GDC are similar Commicon to the comic book geek. One weekend a year to spend time with people who "get it."
In response to "We Are Not Mainstream" from The Escapist Forum: Since when is "Mainstream" another word for financially successful? I always thought it was a description of the cultural reception of a thing. This article just says that games don't make as much money as movies and uses that as evidence against games being almost completely woven into our everyday lives. It ignores the fact that nearly every household which has a TV on which to watch a movie, also has a PC or console in it on which to play games. Games are made out of films and books, in fact they are increasingly certain of being found as part of a blockbuster movie's marketing strategy.
The fact of the matter is that money has nothing to do with 'mainstream' and everything to do with how many of the public enjoy/have interaction with a particular phenomenon. Gaming has been mainstream for years (probably since the PS1) irrespective of the amount of money spent on it. This article is effectively a pretty long way of saying there's a lot of money in movies. Big deal.