Stephen Totilo posted an interesting interview with game designer Jonathan Blow, who created Braid - a not-yet released game that plays with time mechanics in an attempt to create a "a mind-expanding experience" for the player. I don't agree with some rather large swaths of what he has to say about modern game design (saying that "Skinnerian reward scheduling in general ... is unethical and games should not do it" seems to be taking things to a rather far extreme), but his thoughts on games today, why the title of The Escapist really irks him, why the 'games are art' question is stupid, and a host of other matters is worth reading - or at least skimming if you don't have time for the whole thing.
About gamers these days and what they are thinking, I'm not sure. With those of us who have been in the industry for a while, it helps to be honest with ourselves that we are pretty far-separated from the viewpoint of the typical gamer. So I can't exactly know what the general perception is about the creative vision of games, but my guess is, people don't think that games are generally created with much of a vision at all. For me, the very existence of the "are games art?"argument is proof of this. It's obvious - of course games are art! The entire argument just seems ridiculous to me. But it doesn't seem ridiculous if you don't have a certain kind of mental model about what a game is, and about the role of the creators' vision in that. If you think a game is "Madden 2008," then hey, games probably aren't art.
There's some sweeping condemnations in the interview, but some relatively refreshing view points, as well.