The kiss cam is a social game that takes place during arena, stadium and court sporting events in the United States and Canada. It is intended as a light-hearted diversion to the main event during a timeout, television timeout, or similar downtime.
A ‘kiss cam’ camera scans the crowd, and selects a couple, their images being shown on the jumbotron screens in the arena. The couple are then invited to kiss one another, encouraged by the rest of the audience. A kiss is traditionally rewarded by cheers and whistles, whereas a refusal to kiss is booed.
When the kiss cam is in action, the audience may be alerted by a known ‘kiss-related’ song being played, and/or an announcer warning the crowd. The crowd attending then pay attention to the marked ‘kiss cam’ video screen. Normally several consecutive couples are selected, and appear on the screen. As each pair appear onscreen, they are then expected to kiss.
Additionally, sporting event staff may appear as couples who reject kisses or proposals in order to entertain or surprise the attending audience.
The kiss cam tradition originated in California in the early 1980s, as a way to fill in the gaps in play in professional baseball games, taking advantage of the possibilities of the then-new giant video screens.
The couple focused on by the camera may not be in a romantic relationship. They may in fact be brother and sister, friends, or not know each other at all. A platonic, perhaps awkward kiss often then results. Sometimes a refusal can generate a humorous twist for those watching.
The kiss cam screen often appears on television if the event is televised. The couple focused on may not wish their attendance together at the event to be widely publicized.
Some couples, although not wishing to kiss, feel intimidated by the crowd reaction, and feel forced to do so. Other instances may find the couple not noticing themselves on the screen, and the resulting inaction can be humorous or embarrassing.
Gay or lesbian couples may feel excluded from the Kiss Cam routine, or if included, may feel subject to homophobic expressions of disapproval from members of the watching crowd. Kissing under such public scrutiny can be severely embarrassing for either or both members of a couple, who may not be comfortable with public displays of affection to that level.
The first positive reaction by a gay couple caught on camera happened at AT&T Park in San Francisco in August 2011. The men embraced on the kiss cam without embarrassment. On May 2, 2015, a gay couple was applauded after they kissed on the kiss cam at Dodger Stadium.