A controversial gaming app based on New Zealand gang warfare is seeking a new lease on life by offering its fans the chance to feature in a new version of the game.
The Mongrel Mob Defence app, available on Google Play, was launched on Friday by the Supremacy development team and received extensive backlash for promoting gang violence and featuring an image of a now-dead former gang-member.
The family of former Mongrel Mob member William Hurinui, known as Greeco Notorious, labelled the game hurtful and unfair after the developers took a copyrighted image of him from online and appropriated it as the game's main character.
After the developers were faced with legal and physical threats, they replaced the portrait with one of actor Alf Stewart from Australian TV show Home and Away.
But the developers have since had to remove that image too, after requests by Australian television network Seven Network, because of further infringements.
Supremacy said they had made a "huge mistake" with their initial character choice, but were now offering users the chance to feature in the game by sending images.
"[Hurinui] was the first suitable image in the Google search results that fitted our design team's concept and we have sent an apology to the immediate family of William Hurinui," they said.
"The development studio had no knowledge of who William Hurinui was or that he had passed away and wasn't expecting it to negatively affect the lives of his family and cause outrage.
"After receiving backlash the character change was rushed for the sake of the families affected. The application was quickly updated to Alf Stewart, which was inspired by the already huge and popular meme parodies found on the internet.
"Unfortunately the rushed character change wasn't received well by Seven Network and we have since removed all content relating to Seven Network at their request."
Yesterday the game was taken off the site to rectify advertising problems, but the developers said it would return, with the current version featuring a question mark as the main character.
"We are open to all submissions whether it's your grandma with a cigar or your little brother with a gumboot on his head," the team said.
"We will be ensuring we have permission to use the image and that no copyright infringement is present."
The team also addressed the extensive backlash the developers had received.
"Many have taken the gangs' side and see our development studio as the 'bad guys'," the team said.
"This is mainly as a result of our bad call in regards to initial character choice.
"People are forgetting that we are not the ones out on the streets fighting each other, stabbing each other, shooting each other and even killing each other.
"We are not responsible for armed robberies or the large-scale distribution of methamphetamine organisations like these are well known for.
"The real issues remain regardless of some little app on Google Play."
The team said it was "being vilified for pointing out a problem that exists" rather than the source of the problem being addressed.