To begin, if you're not reading/following Eugene Eric Kim, you should. Really. On Twitter he is @eekim and you can find his blog here: http://fasterthan20.com/.
Now a couple weeks ago, Eugene wrote a post called "THE KEY TO EFFECTIVE LEARNING? SOAP BUBBLES!" The story of the soap bubbles is that they are added to soap, they don't occur naturally, to give people the feedback that they associate with getting clean. They need those markers.
Eugene made the point that in the same way, when learning, it's important to get that feedback to provide those markers that you're actually moving along. I think most of us in L&D know the importance of feedback but the folks who work on games (by that, I mean build them for a living) REALLY get the importance of timely and relevant feedback - you don't have that and people will walk right away from your product.
So let's look larger though. The whole marketspace of gamification is the re-introduction of soap bubbles. We have designed so much enterprise software that seems like it was built without any consideration that humans were actually going to use it, that we have had to go out and find a field that is built on maintaining contact with the human on the keyboard or the controller and have had to migrate the principles of that field back across the bridge JUST to get some soap bubbles going.
"Gamification" is really just the addition of bubbles to let people know that the enterprise software they are engaging with knows that they are there and has a path for them and is tracking them in a positive way to make sure they get clean - or find the inforamtion they need - or are able to collaborate with the right people.
Thanks Eugene for providing me anyway, with a much clearer way to think about the soap bubble layer.