If it doesn't work out, like the patron of olde, I'm not spending money I can't afford to spend
The "patrons of old" generally gave commissions, which the artist was expected to fulfill. And if they didn't, they'd get away with it once.
Kickstarter has become the go-to charity for game devs on their third, fourth and fifth go-round. You'd think at some point, they'd be able to get someone to pay them for their work, instead of for their promises.
It's not just "starving artists" at kickstarter, either. You'll see a lot of well-known developers with their hands out, because it's easier to promise to pay on Tuesday for a hamburger today than it is to sign a contract, where you are required to perform.
"Patron of olde" sounds a lot like sucker to me, but as you say, you're not spending money you can't afford to, um, lose.
You realize that there are ways to support "starving artists" where you actually get something? You ever think maybe there's a reason they're starving?
I don't know about you, but I'm in my 28th year of living off my own intellectual property. There are plenty of artists who actually have held down jobs in order to support their work, or got commissions (I've done both) or even (gasp!) sold stock. Roberto Rodriquez participated in medical experiments to finance his first movie. At least there is a shred of self-respect in those methods, and a higher likelihood that the artist will actually accomplish something besides making a snappy trailer for a game that will never, ever be finished.