Come Get That Plastic, Bae: Pharrell’s Game Challenges Ocean Pollution

The musician thinks that after they play his game, people will think twice before tossing a plastic bottle into the ocean.
Oct 15, 2015·
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

You won’t find the latest tunes from Pharrell Williams on Spotify or on the radio. Instead, fans of the hat-loving producer and songwriter can turn to a smartphone game, Battle for Big Blue, to hear the hip-hop version of the typical bleep-bloops found in video games.

Williams likely won’t stop collaborating with celebrities like Justin Timberlake and Alicia Keys to take on a new career scoring games, but he used his musical prowess to advocate for ocean cleanup. The game is available for free Thursday on Android or Apple devices.

In Battle for Big Blue, players steer an octopus through waters filled with plastic water bottles while attempting to dodge sea turtles and prickly blowfish. The game is part of Williams’ collaboration with clothing brand G-Star’s "Raw for the Oceans" initiative, which also makes denim from recycled ocean plastic.

“We aim to raise awareness,” Williams said of the project. “No one who plays this game will ever throw another plastic bottle in the ocean.”

Americans consume about 10 billion gallons of water from plastic bottles annually but recycle only 20 percent of those bottles. That leaves discarded bottles in landfills and oceans. While the octopus in Williams’ game earns points by picking up trash, in reality, marine life suffers from plastic ingestion, with thousands of marine animals dying annually.

Sometimes that plastic finds its way onto dinner plates. A September report revealed that a quarter of fish received in California docks contain plastic; it's the first study to directly link sea-life ingestion of plastic to fish that humans consume.

If users make it to the end of Williams’ game without getting stung by a jellyfish or eaten by a hammerhead shark, the octopus takes the collected plastic bottles and hands them off to G-Star to turn into clothing.

At least, that’s what it looks like from the promotional video—as a gaming novice, I couldn’t get the octopus past the sharks in the Indian Ocean.