You might not think about it while too much while you’re wandering around the island, trying not to get killed and searching for some sweet loot, but gravity in Fortnite, just like in every other video game, is one of the most important scientific concepts to understand if you really want to master the game.
Just like in real life, most people take gravity for granted in video games. If you jump up, you fall back down. If you accidentally slip and fall off a cliff, you drop until you hit the ground beneath you, and if that cliff is high enough (and you don’t have that weird special ability where you glow a little and don’t take any fall damage), you will die.
But why? What’s actually happening when gravity is pulling you down toward the ground, both in Fortnite and in the real world? How is gravity different in Fortnite than it is in the real world, and how do the laws of physics apply—or not apply—in the Fortnite universe?
Before we get into all of that, we need to have a little history lesson. Gravity is one of the most interesting concepts in the history of science, and it all started with Sir Isaac Newton, and the apple that fell on his head while he was sitting under a tree . . . okay, not really. The story goes that Sir Isaac Newton was sitting under a tree when an apple fell on his head, and this made him decide to figure out what gravity is and how it works. In truth, this probably never happened. Much like Benjamin Franklin and the story of how he discovered electricity by flying a kite in a lightning storm, the story of Newton’s apple is a nice way to illustrate a complex scientific principle, but it is most likely just a story. What is not just a story is the fact that Newton did, in fact, completely change the way humanity understood the world and the universe when he came up with his Universal Theory of Gravitation.
Though the apple-falling-on-the-head story is apocryphal, apples did play a role in the development of Newton’s thinking about gravity. Newton had been interested in how gravity functioned even before he went to university, and this interest greatly informed his studies. He was especially intrigued by the role gravity played in the movement of stars and planets, and much of his academic work was focused in this area. Even with all of his scientific education, it wasn’t until later in his life, when he observed some apples falling from a tree (no, they never actually landed on his head), that he first realized that the same force that kept apples from falling sideways (or even upward) could be responsible for the moon revolving around Earth, Earth revolving around the sun, etc.
What was it about that apple falling from the tree that gave Sir Isaac Newton the idea that eventually led to his Law of Universal Gravitation? Unlike the story, it wasn’t merely the fact that the apple came down that made him wonder about the forces acting on it; it was the fact that this particular apple made him realize that any apple that fell from any tree at any spot on the surface of the Earth would fall in a slightly different direction than all of the others.
Now you’re probably thinking, wait a minute, that doesn’t make any sense! Any apple that falls out of any tree is going to fall down!
Well, yes. All apples do travel more or less straight toward the ground when they fall from a tree, but not all trees point in the same direction, do they? No, of course not. In fact, every tree is pointing in a slightly different direction, depending on where it is on the surface of the Earth.
Think about it this way: Imagine you have two apple trees planted on exact opposite sides of the Earth. Let’s say one tree is in Wellington, New Zealand, and the other is just outside of Alaejos, Spain. Now, imagine that an apple were to fall from each of these two trees at the exact same time. What direction would each of these apples be traveling? Would the apples be going in the same direction? After all, they’re both falling down toward the Earth, right?
No, of course they would not be going in the same direction. In fact, these two apples would be falling directly toward each other. If these apples somehow had the magical ability to pass through solid material, they would eventually collide at the exact center of the Earth . . . just like any object that falls from any other object at any point on the entire planet will always fall toward the exact center of the Earth itself.