I just finished reading Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonagall. It had very similar ideas. She tied together some really interesting concepts about personal engagement and flow experiences (when we're at our most productive and self-forgetful). Flow happens when certain conditions are met: we're getting realtime feedback, we're right at the threshold of our own skill levels (being neither bored nor overwhelmed), we believe we can win, etc. This is covered in the research and writing of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (primarily his classic work, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience).
It's not entirely new territory. The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack (1994) made a great case for structuring business endeavors as mini-games. People love to outdo themselves. It invites a phenomenal amount of brilliance as people's goals go from vague to ultra-measurable. Case studies are presented where entire plants are transformed and everyone's ingenuity is invited, not just high-level planners. I think this ties into McGonagall's ideas about using theories of flow and personal engagement, informed by the wild success of gaming at rewarding players for overcoming essentially voluntary obstacles, to restructure reality in new and creative ways.
When I started reading the book, I was suspicious of its core premise. But I really do now believe that principles from game design can be, and is already being, used to restructure academic experience (look at Khan Academy and it's built-in reward systems for mastering material). Similar creative leaps await us in business and society as well.