Consider Pixel Grower, by Joey Betz. Visually, it's appealing, but not awe-inspiringly so. Likewise, the gameplay also appears simple, at least initially. Your mouse controls the paddle with which you must collect as many falling pixels as possible. Much like certain elements in falling sand games, the pixels stick to your paddle wherever they strike it, so before you know it, you're wielding a Christmas tree rather than a simple paddle. Your goal is quite simple: catch as many pixels as possible before your health meter runs out from letting too many pass you by. Whenever your pixel stack reaches the white line, the game zooms out and passes on to the next stage.
So where's the art? Well, let's take a step back and ask ourselves: just what is art? I think most people can agree that all art (good or bad, classic or just plain weird) shares the following two traits: 1) it was conceived as something to be displayed to, played for, or otherwise experienced by others; 2) it elicits from its experiencer some sort of mental or emotional response, whether it be awe, disgust, sadness, or simply: "huh."
With that in mind, we might begin to see how the gameplay in Pixel Grower might be considered artful. As you first begin to play, the game seems pretty straightforward: catch all the pixels, right? But after dying earlier than you think you ought to, it starts to dawn on you that how you catch the pixels is also extremely important. Slowly, you adjust not only your strategy, but the mental state with which you approach the simple task of catching. Like the morphing growth of the pixelated paddle, your impression of the game writhes and shifts, with no two people experiencing the same tactical mental progression. Little by little, you hack away the detritus of sub-optimal strategy, uncovering the gem that lies within.
Of course, like all art, games such as Pixel Grower do not appeal to everyone, as evidenced by the mixed comment response to one of the shining examples of gameplay-as-art. It certainly requires you to put on your abstract glasses to really appreciate it. But for those whose boat is floated by an artfully crafted piece of gameplay, Pixel Grower awaits your discerning fancy.