I'm certainly not the only one who has ever wondered why so much of modern gaming (and, if we look back, past gaming) is so focused on graphics. Surely, there are more important issues at stake when we discuss a game--for instance, its rules, setting, story, modes, and so on. There is a reason why so many people still enjoy Tetris, for instance, whereas games whose major appeal was graphical (such as The 7th Guest) fade quickly after the initial blitz. Most people who bother to give it much thought will quickly come to the conclusion that graphics have much less to do with their enjoyment of a game than the marketing seems to suggest or even insist.
I have given the matter much thought over the years, but keep coming back to marketing. The reason why graphics continue to dominate most discussions of game quality is that so many of us depend on them to learn about new games. In particular, I'm thinking of still shots--screenshots that can be put in a magazine review or advertisement, the back of a game box, a website, and so on. It's enlightening to look through a stack of 80s gamer mags and see "eye-popping" screenshots of games that look woefully crude to us today. It has always been easy to put these images on the marketing materials and use them to lure gamers. It is something that gamers can see or glance at, then make a snap evaluation of the game's quality. The fact that this evaluation is so often wrong does not seem to deter gamers the way it should.
I'm not even sure if I should link to such a thing, ok I'm kindof (seriously, kindof should be one word, without the space, think kinda, then do the proper pronunciation, sometimes that's fun) sure I should since it is relevant (to what I'm not sure, social mores in post-milennial America perhaps.) Scantily clad women have long been a successful marketing ploy for beer, bikinis, beer, men's magazines, beer, women's magazines, lingerie, beer, calendars, and beer. Did I mention beer?