The Kings of Kong: Dean Saglio

In 2012, about nine hours into a live-streamed Dig Dug world record attempt, an exhausted Ken House seemed ready to collapse. He was clearing screens at the right pace, but was beginning, for the sake of his sanity, to leave a little dirt undug. This task, which numbs both the arm and the mind and isn't necessary to advance to the next screen, offers points at a meager drip.

As soon as Ken began to waver, and even as he was lamenting his severe fatigue, Dean Saglio piped up from the chat.

"I see more dirt," he said.

Perfectionism is, I think, one of the prerequisites to playing Donkey Kong at an elite level. Dean might very well be the best player in the world (the undisputable best if you go purely by score) and that's because he's simply not willing to accept less than the absolute limit.

Watch one of Saglio's live-streams for a while and you'll see what I mean. He is perfectly willing to restart for two hours straight before getting a game started with a score he considers satisfactory. He wants it all.

Saglio is in his mid-30s, a husband and father. On MAME, he held the highest recorded Donkey Kong score ever from 2009 until 2016, always years beyond those playing on arcade hardware, until he was finally beaten by Wes Copeland. Saglio is a genuine innovator of strategy and technique, and an inspiration to the "new generation" of Donkey Kong players.

Saglio, along with DK wizard Ross "Von Dummpenstein" Benziger, are the original mega point-pressers. Other players refer to it as an addiction, a compulsion, one that Saglio actually cites as a frequent threat to his chances in any given run.

But Saglio's true Achilles heel when it comes to an attempt on the arcade world record is that while he is a master of the keyboard, arcade-style controls handicap him significantly (never mind that he doesn't even own a Donkey Kong arcade machine).

Ask the community to identify a perceivable threat to Copeland's world record, though, and the response would be unanimous. Calculating, obsessive, tireless, and indeed brilliant, Saglio may be the only player who can do it.

Next: Vincent Lemay »

Posts About Dean Saglio