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Dean Saglio: Is He The Real King of Kong?

Dean Saglio is already tops in Donkey Kong in MAME.  Is it now time for him to take the crown in coin-op?
Dean Saglio is already tops in Donkey Kong in MAME. Is it now time for him to take the crown in coin-op?
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As The Kong Off event at Richie Knucklez Arcade Games rapidly approaches, the names of Donkey Kong champions Hank Chien, Billy Mitchell and Steve Wiebe are dominating talk of the event.

Meanwhile, experts close to the community of competitive gamers on these classic arcade titles are looking toward a name not yet known to the mainstream.

Dean Saglio, a Rhode Island realtor, is one of the many contenders hoping for the best in the March 19-20 event in New Jersey. While yet to make the same news headlines made by the arcade champions, Saglio has technically beaten all three men, standing on top of the Donkey Kong rankings in MAME, an arcade video game emulator available for PCs, with a score of 1,136,400 points.

“Clearly the mass media has picked up on the stories of the great Donkey Kong arcade champions including Billy, Steve and Hank and has not covered my achievements for the same game on the MAME platform,” Saglio said. “So, in a way, you could say that I have been overlooked, but really this is probably well justified.”

While MAME emulates arcade video game code directly, the Saglio states there still remain other aspects of the game that cannot be duplicated on a PC program.

“Although expert Donkey Kong players all agree that the game play between MAME and arcade is absolutely identical, there are a few intangible differences,” Saglio stated. “There is a general atmosphere and pressure associated with playing arcade games in a busy arcade that cannot be duplicated when playing MAME on a home computer. In addition, there are very real differences in the controls. MAME is often played with a keyboard, whereas classic arcade games are played with joysticks and buttons created from early 1980s technology. The screen is tilted differently and the ergonomics of playing standing up or seated on a barstool with no leg room contrast greatly with playing from your comfortable living room chair.”

Media and mainstream perspective also weigh in heavily to why the mainstream media chooses to report on the coin-operated side of the Donkey Kong world, according to Saglio.

“The biggest difference is that playing an original arcade game gives a great feeling of nostalgia that is a bit muted when playing an emulation. I believe that this is the key point which mass media picks up on,” Saglio added. “They can tell the story of a present day arcade champion to a wide audience who all remembers playing these games 25 - 30 years ago and who will feel that nostalgia from the reporting of ‘feel good’ stories like these. I believe that the mass media feels that they would be generally unable to connect with this same audience if they were to try to highlight an accomplishment in MAME, a platform that relatively few people have even heard of or understand. So, I can certainly understand the difference in the coverage.”

Due to the differences mentioned by Saglio, he states that his biggest challenge in preparing for the Kong Off has been directly related.

“By far my biggest challenge in preparing for this event, which will be played on arcade cabinets is getting used to the difference in the controls between the two platforms, combined with the fact that I do not have access to playing on an arcade cabinet regularly,” Saglio said. “These controller differences can affect game play. In general, I have developed a very aggressive and precise style which relies heavily on very frequent, quick starts and stops and positional adjustments throughout the game. When I have transitioned to using the joystick I have noticed that it simply takes too long to make all of the moves that I am used to making, so I end up having a slower, coarser control.”

Saglio is just one of ten Donkey Kong champions and contenders that are scheduled to face off at the Kong Off event. Dean states that he is looking forward to the contest.

“I personally want to thank Richie Knucklez and his crew for all of the work that they've been doing on a daily basis over the past several months to prepare for hosting what I believe will be one of the all-time great video game arcade events, and of course for inviting me to participate as one of the main contestants,” Saglio said. “It's an event that I've been looking forward to for a long time.”

Visitors to video gaming forums such as those at Twin Galaxies have been speaking about Dean’s entry into the Kong Off and what it might mean for gamers such as current champion Hank Chien. Saglio has chosen to make his intentions clear.

“Quite frankly, I am going to this event with the intention of winning it, Saglio stated. “I will not be one that is happy just to be there. I also know that I have more than enough game to challenge the currently listed arcade world record.”

Those wishing to learn more about the Kong Off event can visit Those wishing to learn more about what goes on at nights at the Richie Knucklez Arcade can check out

Check back tomorrow for more coverage relating to this gaming event.

(BREAKING NEWS: Just last night, March 8, Dean scored 1,091,000 in MAME, using a Donkey Kong arcade control panel over a live internet broadcast. Might this mean he’s now ready to overtake Hank, Billy and Steve at the Kong Off?)


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