Or, perhaps, it’s been done because the author feels that heritage is an irreversible part of a character.
One of my WiP characters–her name is Edie Bruk Zere–is Ethiopian. She’s also female. To take away her Ethiopian heritage, visually or otherwise, would be as un-Edie to me as a male version of her character. She eats w’et with injera. She has black braids and dark skin. Her mother plays the washint. She is very distinctly neither white-looking, nor from a Western culture.
There are several reasons why I include illustrations in my games, but this is actually one of them. Edie is her dark-skinned, heavy-set, lovely self, and no-one else.
I’ve also been surprised at how many international artists I’ve worked with in the past who’ve said something like, “No-one’s ever asked me to draw a Kyrgyzstani character before,” or, “Wow, that was really hard, I almost never get asked to draw heavy characters.” I’d like to see that change.
People do, of course, visualise characters however they wish…but at what point is it no longer really even a version of the author’s character?
And I agree, removing diversity–regardless of the author’s reasons for including it–is problematic. Society does enough of that for us. I hope people will make an effort to resist the tendency, not assist.
Edit: @Eiwynn, I think we posted at the same time. ( : Interestingly, showing the time period was actually never a specific reason why I chose to include illustrations–although my very patient artist and I spend a lot of time on research for the clothes and settings. I’m glad it’s helpful, though.