Are there any serious philosopher or artist that have talked about this topic before? Because what I can see from video games is that they can change the imagination of a person about reality, especially new generation games, all of them throw at you an "Iliad" kind of story, full with great deeds, inspiring heroes and villains. It happens especially at childhood. It happened to me, I have experienced that already.
The question of whether computer games are art is redundant. They obviously are or can be. I see art as on a continuum with craft - the painters of the Renaissance were considered craftsmen. But art seems distinguished by being in a dialogue of a creator with their peers or audience, that extends or in some way transforms what can be expressed there. It is 'high' craft. There is far more money now in computer games than films, and that is shifting the focus of creative discourse into computer games, as well as to TV series which indicates something about our attention span - The Witcher breaks the cliche that computer game transfers to screen are terrible, though it was via an extensive series of books. It is a decisively different fantasy world to Tolkein, which casts a long shadow over the genre, one of very few to break into the mainstream (Miyazaki is also notable).
The more interesting question is, are computer games shifting our imagination about our reality? There can be no doubt novels have done so. The fervour for Gothic Romances did so. A fashion like that that crosses literary and popular boundaries, and has a distinct aesthetic, helps to isolate an impact.
Of all people, Joe Rogan made a deep suggestion, that virtual reality might help create an international language of visual memes. This is a striking idea, that will test how we think about language if it proves possible.
Looking at a really notable lasting meme Is This Loss, 'the internets greatest meme', it takes a substantial induction, not just into how the transferable symbolism is created, but into why - I see it as a kind of collective anguish and humour about awkward changes of tone, replayed by identifying the reference in jarring contexts, that like puns can vary from groan-inducing to quite sophisticated wit (nb the Facebook group The Deviance From The Traditional Template Makes This A Post-modern Loss). It is more of an in-group secret symbol & behaviour to reference it, rather than something self-contained or self-representing. Here is a set of similar abstract references:
All of these require an explanation of how they are used. But their origins are pretty much irrelevant. They are becoming part of a shifting palette of ways to respond to news and within communities, that tests knowledge of the body of knowledge of meme culture - in particular, how fast it changes excludes those who don't stay immersed in its development. New Urbanist Memes for Transit-Oriented Teens on Facebook, a Facebook group with more than 212k members, made the news during the Democratic primaries for endorsing Bernie Sanders, illustrates the merger of a serious topic with in-group humour, creating a pool of activists that are having an impact through that. Wild Green Memes for Ecological Fiends a bigger group, is maybe an even clearer example of in-group humour, that becomes inaccessible if you didn't witness the birth of a new meme, and how it directed its proper use.
Chinese logograms, and Egyptian hieroglyphics, as well as progressive levels of abstraction found in cuneiform, seem to imply that highly compact communication can occur in comparable glyphs, even though they currently don't. Chinese is notoriously rich with subtle allusions and visual puns, grounded in very wide-ranging superstitions, which has resulted in a culture of poetry that needed great education to fully access, amplified by the extraordinary continuity of the Imperial Examination to join the civil service, which tested among other things writing poetry.
Young people of every era have sought to distinguish and bond with their generation through changing the language, through slang, in-jokes, and references. We can look to the plasticity of the neocortex below age 25, for accelerated across-generational learning - chimpanzees have this, but not between-generational learning to the extent humans do, this has been linked to them not creche-rearing infants. Language-learning is quicker almost the younger you go. A difference between Digital Natives, the generation to grow up with the internet is well known. VR is still very much in development. We might expect when VR has become more dominant in games, to have 'VR Natives', used to the more sophisticated interface possible in 3D like we have got used to touch-screens. Gaming communities play extensively across borders, South Korea in particular is known for some of the most competitive gamers. It is interesting that a lot of computer coding is in English, a lingua franca for game design.
Baudrillard is the obvious philosopher to look to, with his model of progressive abstraction. Simulacra and Simulation delineates the sign-order into four stages:
"The first stage is a faithful image/copy, where we believe, and it may even be correct, that a sign is a "reflection of a profound reality", this is a > good appearance, in what Baudrillard called "the sacramental order". The second stage is perversion of reality, this is where we come to believe the sign to be an unfaithful copy, which "masks and denatures" reality as an "evil appearance—it is of the order of maleficence". Here, signs and images do not faithfully reveal reality to us, but can hint at the existence of an obscure reality which the sign itself is incapable of encapsulating. The third stage masks the absence of a profound reality, where the sign pretends to be a faithful copy, but it is a copy with no original. Signs and images claim to represent something real, but no representation is taking place and arbitrary images are merely suggested as things which they have no relationship to. Baudrillard calls this the "order of sorcery", a regime of semantic algebra where all human meaning is conjured artificially to appear as a reference to the (increasingly) hermetic truth. The fourth stage is pure simulacrum, in which the simulacrum has no relationship to any reality whatsoever. Here, signs merely reflect other signs and any claim to reality on the part of images or signs is only of the order of other such claims. This is a regime of total equivalency, where cultural products need no longer even pretend to be real in a naïve sense, because the experiences of consumers' lives are so predominantly artificial that even claims to reality are expected to be phrased in artificial, "hyperreal" terms. Any naïve pretension to reality as such is perceived as bereft of critical self-awareness, and thus as oversentimental." - from Wikipedia
There has historically been a fairly unified body of cultural knowledge, expected of an educated person. Key literature could largely be assumed, and references to it would be understood, in all media. Baudrillard's third degree or type of simulacra creation that he identifies with the postmodern era, seems to go with the fracturing of that body of reference, beyond what anyone even an exceptionally well-educated person could know. It's interesting to note that may only hold for 'high' art, produced or consumed by an elite, while crafts have always had their own guilds, apprenticeships, & c.
The build-up of a dialogue between game-creators with their peers, and creators coming pretty exclusively from obsessive players, is generating a new cultural domain. Comic books and graphic novels have been on that trajectory for longer, with stories like Watchmen and The Boys inverting genre assumptions, weaving implied commentary on CIA black-ops and US imperialism, and commenting on the nature of the hero genre itself - when it hits a 'cultural nerve' it will become part of the narrative of an era, part of a window into a time for future people. Attack On Titan has been suggested as a cultural commentary of grappling-with Japanese militarism of WW2 by a young generation, still a taboo topic to face head-on there, even now (& multi-genre, inc computer games). I suggest it is this kind of dialogue that makes a domain for art, when a creator can transform the expectations or understanding of their peers, in a way that alters the craft, and speaks to or deeply of a moment - it becomes part of a new body of cultural work a creator in that medium will be expected to know. Perhaps there has always been this fragmenting into new art firms, new crafts, and a shift of cultural focus or priority or value placed on them. I would argue modern art is increasingly mainly in dialogue with hedge-fund managers using art as an investment vehicle, and with the pronouncements of a small number of critics, rather than in dialogue with peers, and audience - this can be seen by how unintelligible many pieces are without substantial interpretation of very niche kinds, the dialogue has largely become very rarified (with some great exceptions, eg Ai Wei Wei has constantly pushed at the boundaries of what he is allowed to dialogue with). It's interesting to not Accelerationism emerged in science fiction (Zelazny) some decades before it cohered in philosophy. Stalker and Roadside Picnic that film was based on, illustrate the raising of sophistication of that genre, once dismissed as not capable of serious art.. It is interesting to note that the Illiad has been argued to 'play against type' as a hero story, including pointless and gruesome deaths, highlighting the tragic qualities of war, and of grief. Beowulf has been argued to subtly show the increasing monstrousness of the hero, as his elevation makes him less human, in another inversion of expectations. Gawain And The Green Knight, a very nearly lost story, also clearly subverts expectations, and comments in a sophisticated way on masculinity & the natural world, among other things.
Our understanding of how language arises is still locked in a kind of stasis, about where meaning itself comes from, and how our language facility arises. From Chomsky regarding a core of universal grammar as innate, to Wittgenstein seeing language as inextricable with modes of life. We have a very interesting case with how VR & the memesphere develop through it, to test out ideas. Learning to speak dolphin, which looks very like it may be on the horizon, also aided by VR, will be another test case. The problem of communicating with extra-terrestrials another. Will the modern era of visual memes go from Baudrillard's second, or possibly third stage, into it's own language?
Mark Fisher proposed that Baudrillard's stages of simulacra creation imply there will be an increasing seamlessness between cultural theory, and fiction. This is also found in the idea of theory-fictions of Nick Land. Camus saw fiction as the primary way to explore his philosophy. The development of science fiction illustrates how a genre can develop to grapple with increasingly sophisticated ideas and dilemmas, especially first contact with non-humans. Graphic novels because they are concise & very visual, have become a major source for new films, and a domain for exploring increasingly sophisticated and controversial, and timely, matters. Undoubtedly computer games will do this too. One limiting factor may be their relatively narrow audience, but as The Witcher shows a compelling world can successfully hop genres. Like graphic novels and manga have become the grounds for feeding controversial content that speaks to a moment or era into more accessible films, the high turnover of computer games in search of new 'hits', requiring innovation in interactions/gameplay as well as concept/art/worldbuilding, must also accelerate what ideas make it into the cultural mainstream.
Playing a lot of thrown-object games as children has been linked to certain basic mathematical proficiencies with visualisation. Computer game play has been linked to heightened ability to focus certain kinds of attention, and sift for signal among noise. There is also a demand for rich stimuli that goes with ready-access to games, that must link to a measure of restlessness - the same with social media & a kind of restlessness of communications. Games are breaking out to provide other applications, Minecraft being an especially interesting shift in how we understand games and what they do. I look forward to more open-source games, which are still rare, but Minecraft illustrates the scope for.
Heidegger's approach could be useful to look at a shift in the ontologico-existential 'worldhood' of group, and how a shift in what people do together shifts the way they manifest their being.
Durkheim's analysis of religious practice, as the binding together of communities through shared setting apart, or making sacred things or values, is another useful approach. The 10 Principles Of Burning Man might be regarded as whimsical over-ambition for a festival from outside the culture, but it has to be seen how Burning Man changed festivals around the world. The urban transport group NUMTOTS has quite a loose coalition of values but clearly shows how a group with a thriving culture that mixes entertainment and serious issues, can become a meaningful pressure-group block around some defined issues. Blade Runner 2049 grapples with the idea of synthetic minds requiring a kind of pathway to religious practice, that Durkheim's account would recognise as necessary to counteract anomie, cultural decohesion and self-destructive impulses that can lead to cultural collapse and suicide.
Play in general is an important angle. Huizinga made the case our species is defined by play in a 1938 book Homo Ludens, and there is a 2016 book collecting contemporary examples. Wittgenstein derived arguably his most important idea from thinking about how we use the word 'game'. And I would look to play, and art as a kind of play, a creativity of creativity, in relatiins to Maslow's 'self actualisation', the self-creation/extension/complexifying that we seek, and find our fulfillment in, when other already definable need have been met. As Nietzsche put it, "Man's maturity: to have regained the seriousness that he had as a child at play."
Apologies for a long post light on the philosophical references asked for, as I'm sure you can tell this is just thinking out loud. Not a lot of consistency about prioritising 'notable' or defining 'the mainstream'.. It is an area in it's infancy for philosophical consideration, but I hope I have at least made the case why it will not stay that way, and some thinkers who's work bear on it. There is a laboratory developing here, for testing out ideas about language development, and watching the creation of new genres of art and types of community in our own lifetimes, which must be crucial to understanding our species, and it's future.