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The Fascination of Games

In conversation with board game expert Irving Finkel of the British Museum, Mark Tully discovers some of the reasons behind the universal fascination of games.

Games, puzzles and intellectual contests have exerted a fascination on humans for thousands of years. Mark Tully asks why people from so many different cultures are so devoted to games of skill, strategy and calculation.

He talks to Dr Irving Finkel who has been hooked on since childhood, now writes extensively on the subject and recently rediscovered the rules for the ancient Royal Game of Ur. He also explores the many purposes of game-playing, from military training to education and from holding communities together to psychological therapy.

There's music from saxophonist Wayne Shorter, Amy Winehouse and Georges Bizet, and readings from philosopher Bernard Suits and poet Ezra Pound.

Readers: David Westhead and Polly Frame.
Presenter: Mark Tully
Producer: Frank Stirling

A 7digital production for BBC Radio 4.

30 minutes

Music Played

  • Wayne

    Mah Jong

    • Juju.
    • Blue Note.
    • CDP 7 46514 2.
  • Amy Winehouse

    Love Is A Losing Game

    Performer: Amy Winehouse.
    • Island.
    • 1757232.
  • Georges Bizet

    Jeux d'Enfants

    • L'Enfance: Oeuvres Pour Piano A Quatre Mains.
    • Mirare.
    • MIR190.
  • Alexandre Desplat

    The Dark Side of Chess

    Performer: Alexandre Desplat.
    • The Luzhin Defence.
    • Silver Screen Records.
    • FILMCD 345.
  • K. Gyasi Guitar Band


    • Akwaaba.
    • OX Records.
    • NFI.
  • François-André Danican Philidor

    Les Femmes Vengees

    Performer: Claire Desert, Emmanuel Strosser.
    • L'Enfance: Oeuvres Pour Piano A Quatre Mains.
    • Mirare.
    • MIR190.


Title: The Grass Arena 

Author: John Healey 

Published by: Penguin 


Title: Grasshopper 

Author: Bernard Suits 

Published by: University of Toronto Press 


Title: Dogmatic Statement Concerning The Game of Press 

Author: Ezra Pound 

Published by: Bartleby 


Title: Kim 

Author: Rudyard Kipling 

Published by: Penguin 


Title: Ramadan Game 

Author: AFP

Published by: Al Arabiya News