Few genres of games have had such a dedicated and enthusiastic audience, as that of Role Playing Games, and all this while never having been the most popular or top-selling genre. Role Playing Games first arose to worldwide fame with the creation of various table games and board based games, especially Gary Gigax's Dungeons & Dragons, a franchise which still remains largely synonymous with RPG's as a whole, and particularly with table top RPG's. Much of the initial inspiration for what have become RPG staples was found though the famous Lord of the Rings trilogy of books, along with other fantasy books, as well as myths and legends from various cultures.
RPG's remain quite possibly the most misunderstood gaming genre, due to the presence of many monsters and demons, and because many RPG's offer players the choice of aligning themselves with the forces of either good or evil, some religious leaders have considered RPG's to be a bad influence, and some even consider them to be satanic or sympathetic towards Satanism. Some others reject RPG's for other reasons, such as the common perception that many RPG gamers are geeky or just unpopular, thus 'uncool' in the eyes of some people, yet the massive popularity of modern PC Massively Multiplayer Online RPG's( or MMORPG's for short) such as World Of Warcraft have clearly proven this stereotype to be untrue.
Today Role Playing Games come in many different forms, from the tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons, to the popular console RPG series such as Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, to the many well-loved computer RPG's such as Blizzard's top-selling Diablo II and World Of Warcraft franchises. RPG's even have helped to spawn a large number of hybrid genres, with some of the most popular being the Action/RPG which combines elements of action games with the exploration and settings of an RPG or Adventure game, and the Strategy/RPG genre which combines the turn-based Strategy game with the leveling up and story development which is often found in a Role Playing Game.
Newer related Sub-genre's include the Massively Multiplayer Online RPG, which focuses exclusively on online play with a large number of people, within a persisting and constantly changing world. These MMORPG games such as the already mentioned World Of Warcraft, almost always require that you pay a monthly fee of roughly $5-30 dollars to play the game, although there have been some exceptions, most famously the Guild Wars series of games which has allowed gamers to play online with no monthly fee. These MMORPG's have also had the most success with mainstream gaming, with top-selling games such as World Of Warcraft setting all kinds of subscription and sales records which had never been enjoyed by RPG's as a whole until very recently.
Although MMORPG's continue to be highly successful with sales, Traditional RPG gaming has remained something of a niche, with many of the players being dedicated, but not quite as many gamers as some more popular genres have enjoyed.