I'm proving to be more interested in what Schmidt is in charge of: GameSoundCon
There really is no substitute for GDC. That is the premiere event for anyone working on games. It's 18,000 people, nearly all of whom are involved in making games!
Now, GDC is most definitely geared primarily to those who have done a lot of work in games or are very knowledgeable about it. It presumes a hefty base of knowledge on how games work, and a lot of people who go with a background only in 'traditional' music/sound design get kind of flummoxed by a lot of the sessions and terms that get thrown around ("Streams", "RTPCs", "Middleware", "interactive mixing", etc.), so if you don't know what those are and what they mean, it's easy to get lost. Even the "audio bootcamp" at GDC presumes a decent amount of game audio knowledge.
GameSoundCon is great for getting that base knowledge needed to understand how games differ from other types of music for media (film, TV, music production, etc.). I've had many many GameSoundCon attendees who later went to GDC tell me that GameSoundCon really prepared them for GDC and gave them context and information to be able to understand what everyone was actually talking about.
If you're new to games or maybe have done a few small iPhone/facebook games and would like to "up your game" to the next level, I'd probably suggest GameSoundCon, followed by GDC. If you can really only go to one, I'd probably suggest GDC (As the creator of GameSoundCon, I probably shouldn't say that! ). But everyone should experience GDC at least once
Executive Director GameSoundCon
Executive Director, GameSoundCon:
GameSoundCon 2016:September 27-28, Los Angeles, CA
Founder, Brian Schmidt Studios, LLC
Music Composition & Sound Design
Audio Technology Consultant